That Sci-Fi Itch
This was one of the more talked about movies lately and as it’s usual for me I’m late to the party. Anyway the movie got so much chatter because it’s kind of a rare property in that it’s an original sci-fi idea and it’s actually a good movie (both quite rare in Hollywood nowadays). Also it’s the new movie by this guy Rian Johnson who supposedly impressed many film fans with his first two films. I wouldn’t know because I have not seen his prior films, but after watching “Looper” I kind of want to.
“Looper” follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who’s, well, a Looper – a hitman who kills targets that are sent to him from the future. But one day the target they send back in time for him to execute is his old self (Bruce Willis) and he hesitates, which gives old Joe enough of a window to make a successful escape. Determined to execute his contract young Joe must find and kill his old self before the organization that employs him murders them both. That makes sense, right?
Anyway the movie does the explaining much better than I do and yes, the film primarily deals with the concept of time travel and the lore that it builds around it is very dense but also presented wonderfully. It’s very easy to gather what a Looper is and what his purpose is but it also helps that these concepts are presented in a cool way and are also well thought out which makes them intriguing by default. The film is an interesting sci-fi mish-mash of a few really cool concepts (think “12 Monkeys” + “Akira” and you’re in the ballpark) and some wonderful character moments. There are some questionable plot points and contrivances for sure, but when you consider the mind-melting concepts that the film is trying to juggle I think the end result is more than acceptable.
But that’s not this films strongest suit, and just like any other genre sci-fi also needs a good story and characters to sustain itself, as “cool” will rarely do it on its own. And that’s also the case with “Looper” as the main asset of this film is the character of Joe, and the scenes that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis share are some of the best scenes of the film. What’s great though is that the writer/director is not afraid to show these guys in a bad light and they both do some really pathetic or even despicable deeds. But both Joes are always sympathetic because they always have good reasons for what they’re doing. So, thankfully, the film does not conform to a set formula (even if the set-up suggests otherwise) which makes it an enjoyable and surprising film to watch throughout. And I guess that’s the highest praise I can bestow upon a genre film.
Another thing worthy of praise is the make-up work that enables Joseph Gordon-Levitt to pass off as a young Bruce Willis, as well as Levitt’s nuanced Bruce Willis impersonation. The first time I saw it on the screen it was a bit jarring but I got in to it fast enough, so the effect they achieved is completely believable. It’s actually kind of eerie how well Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance works because now when I think of it in hindsight I really never questioned what he was doing after that initial bump, which is sort of amazing because he shares a lot of scenes with the real Bruce Willis. As for the other actors, Bruce Willis is in his badass old man mode and Emily Blunt gives probably the strongest dramatic performance of the film as Sara, the foul-mouthed, unbelievably sexy, shotgun-wielding farm mom.
So without giving too much away all I can do is recommend “Looper” to anyone even remotely interested in sci-fi films or good, entertaining movies in general. It's not a perfect movie by any measure but it scratches that sci-fi itch and then some.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Joe
Bruce Willis - Old Joe
Emily Blunt - Sara
Jeff Daniels - Abe
Paul Dano - Seth