I’ve been a fan of Rian Johnson’s work since I first was blown away by his slick, modern day high school film noir, Brick. Johnson reunites with his star from Brick, and Hollywood’s It-guy for the moment, Joseph Gordon-Levitt with his new film Looper. With the critical success of Brick and some memorable guest directing spots on Breaking Bad (the best show on TV, FYI), Looper has catapulted him into the appeal of the masses, and rightfully so. It’s being billed in ads as an action movie, but do not go into this expecting Expendables 2 style “blast the ever-loving shit out of anything that moves” action. Looper is a very intelligent film dealing with complex concepts. It’s not all about blowing shit up, though that does happen a lot.
I could spend a really long time discussing the time travel aspect of the story, but I would be doing two things if I went into insane detail. First, I’d ruin a great deal of the plot for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Second, I would talk myself into circles. This is the kind of film you have to treat like a wave. Instead of fighting the current trying to get to the top of it, just relax and let it wash over you. You’ll absorb more of it’s impact and more than likely that you’ll get the ride you’re looking for. There is a phenomenon that seems to happen almost every time a time travel film is released. People spend a lot of time picking through movies like this with a fine-tooth comb trying to find a mistake or plot hole. Because obviously the details and ramifications of time travel are perfectly clear to all film critics (professional or amateur) and IMDB trolls, yet elude the smartest scientists on the planet. But fear not, faithful reader or random guy in Hoboken who clicked on this link by accident! I shall not ruin this great film for you by pecking it to death, but here’s a taste of the plot for convention’s sake:
The attention to detail regarding the effects of characters jumping back in time is staggering. In other time travel films, the ability to travel into the past or future is usually a secret known only to the character(s) involved in the act. In Looper, both present AND future versions of the same character are aware of time travel in addition to nearly every other character in the film. This exponentially multiplies the difficulty in crafting a story as tight as this. For example, the scene in the trailer above where Gordon-Levitt and Willis are in the diner. Levitt uses the fact that any change in mindset or physical act by him changes Willis’ existence instantly, including his scars, memories, motivation and judgment. Johnson’s script challenges the audience, constantly asking us to rethink what we just saw, are watching presently, and what we think is about to happen in the film. When a movie engages me on this level, even if the payoff isn’t what I thought it would be or wanted to happen, it’s still going to end up a good film in my book.
Joseph Gordon Levitt dons some fairly subtle make-up that gives him the appearance of a young Bruce Willis. More impressive than this is Gordon-Levitt’s mimicking of Willis’ mannerisms and speech. While it was probably easier to do this with your source being on set with you, it’s incredible what Gordon-Levitt achieved. He nailed Willis’ accent as well as the odd sideways smirk that you see from Bruce does naturally. No doubt they had a lot of fun with this during filming. While the special effects are not jaw dropping, the look of Johnson’s future is realistic and a bit humorous. Kinda funny to see someone driving a rusted out Prius. The supporting cast is equally impressive featuring Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo & the surprisingly versatile Garret Dillahunt.
I’ll touch briefly on the use of telekinesis in the film (which 10% of all people have in the future, can’t wait). You can see snippits of it on the trailer and I’m sorry, but this shit is fucking cool. I mean, if I could float a coin three inches above my palm I’d do it all the time. Every time it popped up in the plot, it reminded me more and more of the epic anime film, Akira. That’s a huge stretch for a connection, I know, but that’s what went through my head as events unfolded.
If you are a fan of Rian Johnson, Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, all of the above, or just science fiction in general, then there is absolutely no way you can miss Looper.