Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Joe), Bruce Willis (older Joe), Emily Blunt (Sara), Jeff Daniels (Abe), Paul Dano (Seth), Pierce Gagnon (Cid)
Director/Writer: Rian Johnson
Congratulations to me! This is the Blog of Big Ideas’ 100th post!
After Hollywood has been able to churn out remake after remake, sequel after sequel, adaptation upon adaptation, and even combining several characters with their own films to make a “bigger” and “badder” one (The Avengers), Looper appears on the sci-fi horizon as a breath of fresh air, a wholly original piece without precedent that is driven by story, and not by special effects or the inevitable explosive battle scene.
Looper is Rian Johnson‘s creation, shot by shot and line by line (minus studio interventions). As a result, it’s a sci-fi film that dares to takes us away from a futuristic and messy urban sprawl, to the remoteness and tranquility of rural America simply because the script dictates it. Looper has nothing to prove, it’s not afraid of losing the attention of audiences and relies on its characters’ story arcs to build up tension leading to a grand finale that is both unexpected yet obvious as soon as it unfolds.
The title role of Joe, a Looper, or for all intents and purposes, a killer for hire, is played by two actors at different stages of his life. The younger one is a nearly unrecognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose face is plastered with prosthetic in order to look similar to his older self, played by a certain Bruce Willis who has made a name for himself taking on troubled asocial characters with clear goals that are pursued with great drive and intensity.
Despite the odd use of prosthetic, which I deem unnecessary, Gordon-Levitt delivers a great performance just by simply mimicking the mannerisms of a Bruce Willis who is little more than his usual kick-ass self (not that we need him to be more).
Interestingly, the film also casts Jeff Daniels as a gangster from the future who bosses the Loopers around. This is an effective performance despite my initial hesitation as Daniels uses his comedic ease with a devilish grin that inspires fear in those around him. More of the Jeff Daniels in HBO’s The Newsroom and less of his iconic role in Dumber and Dumber.
There are several layers of complexity to the story. One comes from time-traveling, a subject that has captivated scientists and movie-makers alike. Crucially, the film averts the pitfalls of obsessing over the endlessly complicated subject by simply using it as an anchor to the entire story. Looper explains what it must, but leaves most of it to our imagination. Rarely has a film taken so many leaps of faith in a more seamless fashion. Not once did I question the logic of the plot until after I was done watching.
But to say Looper is anchored on time-traveling does not mean it is driven or limited to it. Sure, the consequences of what takes place on screen are always seen in terms of time and what they all imply for the future. However, the film is far more interested in characterization, specifically on how far people will go for love, and by how violence can lead to more violence, escalating until all humanity has been stripped.
Equally interesting are the parallels of both characters, each striving for their own selfish objectives, almost maddeningly so. Along the way, the younger Joe begins to change in much the same way the older Joe managed to do so in the future he’s beginning to forget. Both are ultimately driven by love, except that their quests for happiness are not compatible, forcing them to question the very purpose of their own existence.
Visually, Looper inserts enough elements to make us believe we are indeed in some dystopian future where organized crime runs rampant. Though little beyond the Looper lifestyle is explored, there is enough shown to provide a clear enough backdrop without dwelling on it too long.
Besides the unnecessary prostetics applied to the face of Joseph Gordon Levitt, there is little to criticize in Looper, an engrossing and original sci-fi film that is thought-provoking, suspenseful and surprisingly emotional.
Rating: 4.5 / 5 (excellent)
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦
– After Looper, Id really like for Bruce Willis to stick to doing sci-fi until his dying days.
– The decision to put prosthetic on JGL’s face underestimated the actor’s capacity to “become” Bruce Willis.
– I wonder why it’s so hard to “get rid of bodies in the future”. One of several unexplored facts the film doesn’t bother to explain.
– The kid playing Cid was just the right combination of cute, intelligent and creepy. Excellent casting choice. Would be very interesting to see what he does in the future.