I was mesmerized by 2005’s neo-noir Brick. It was written and directed with pure devotion for the genre and cinema as a whole – and it came from the first time filmmaker Rian Johnson. In the seven years since Johnson has delivered only two films; the wonderful and highly underrated The Brothers Bloom (2008) and now, Looper, which is a must-see for fans of science fiction and a should-see for everyone else.
For the most part, Looper is set in the year 2044, when time travel still hasn’t been invented. However, by 2074 it has been invented, outlawed, and now used exclusively by criminal organizations to dispose of their enemies – this becomes harder to achieve in the future because of human tracking technologies. So, we have loopers. They’re the guys on the other end, thirty years earlier, waiting for their hooded victim to appear out of thin air and blow a whole through their chest. What a premise.
Joe is a looper. When he’s not in the cornfield waiting to blast away victims with his shotgun-like ‘blunderbuss’, he spends his free time getting high off eye-drops and pursuing a hooker with a heart-of-gold. But when Seth – Joe’s only friend as far as I can tell – shows up needing help, the film really starts to take shape. Seth failed to close his loop. This is a problem because if the mob no longer finds a use for a looper, they “close the loop”, sending the 2074 looper back to 2044 so the young looper kills his future self. You get a big payday, sure, but at the price of knowing that in thirty years, that’s you lying dead next to the cornhusks.
Before Seth is dealt with by Abe – the big boss from the future that handles the business side of things – he manages to share with Joe that there is new leader in the future, the Rainmaker, and he’s closing all of the loops. Of course, this leads us to Joe facing his future self, who is un-hooded and able to escape. All weirdness aside of seeing oneself from the future, Young Joe knows he has to kill Old Joe and Old Joe knows he has to live long enough to seek revenge. This is Looper.
To go into more details would be crime at this point. The originality of the story and its scope must be realized by the individual. As the performances go, my hat is off to Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Young Joe. Impressive in just about everything – again, see Brick – Levitt as a young Bruce Willis is quite the sight. He truly encompasses Willis beyond just mere imitation. Yeah, sure, he’s wearing make-up and prosthetics – so what! He really pulled it off and it’s incredibly fun to watch Willis’s entire career pass before my eyes in JGL’s performance. As for Willis himself, he again plays the best Bruce Willis. Now, I love when he takes a risk in his career (if you can call ever call it that), and he really outdoes himself here and I wouldn’t want anyone else for the role of Old Joe. Other great performances include Paul Dano as Seth, Jeff Daniels as Abe, Emily Blunt as Sara, and the possible show-stealer, Cid, played by the very young, Pierce Gagnon.
Behind the camera, Rian Johnson achieves his best work yet with Looper.. He’s one hell of a writer in my opinion. Film after film his stories get more complicated (in a good way) and his attention to details and focus on character development shines through, especially in this film. However his greatest achievement is perfecting the visual story. Every shot is not only aesthetically awesome, but when you think about it, there’s no other place the camera should be. I’m beyond curious to see how Johnson will top this, and I’ll be damned if we have to wait another four years for him to try and succeed.
The bottom line is that Looper is an excellent film. I’ll venture to say it’s one of the greater science fiction films out there, and definitely one of this year’s best. It probably won’t fair too well come Oscar season, as there’s a lot of stiff competition so far, and in the coming months, but for those who may not have noticed Rian Johnson yet, Looper will surely capture people’s attention.
– Kyle Owen