Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception), Bruce Willis (Die Hard), Emily Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau)
Director/Writer: Rian Johnson (Brick)
Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes
Release Date: 28 September (US, UK)
Looper is the brainchild of Rian Johnson, who made the terrific film-noir/high school movie Brick (he also made The Brothers Bloom, which I haven’t seen yet but really need to). The talent behind it, combined with the intriguing premise, has had me excited about this one for a while. Now that it’s finally released, I can happily say Looper lives up to all expectations and comes out as one of the best films of 2012 so far.
The plot of Looper is more complicated than the trailer suggests. Joe (Gordon-Levitt)’s hunt for his future self (Willis) is merely the starting point of a story that goes much deeper into themes of loss, revenge, and of course time travel. Some of the major plot elements of the film have been completely omitted from the publicity, and wisely so, and some of them are more interesting that the initial premise. The way the time travel works in this world is explained in detail, but no so much that it becomes over-bearing and requires the use of a diagram. It does some unique things with the concept of the past affecting the future, while also taking some obvious queues from other sci-fi films (the film screams The Terminator at several points). The film keeps up a good clip, though it does slow down a fair bit in the latter half of the second act.
Many have found Gordon-Levitt’s make-up to make him look more like Bruce Willis to be a bit unnerving. But to be honest, you get used to it eventually. More importantly, Gordon-Levitt nails Willis’ mannerisms and tone of voice. But he also is sure to make his performance not an exact copy of Willis, considering that while they are both Joe, they are very different Joes that have experienced different things. Willis himself is on usual form, so if you know what to expect from him these days you’ll get exactly that. Emily Blunt, while introduced late in the film, does very well and has finally managed to shed her English accent for a role. Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels serve their small roles effectively, and Brick’s Noah Segan is back playing a similar role to the one he did in Johnson’s first film.
Action isn’t the main focus of Looper, but when it does it, it does it good. 95% of the action involves gunplay, and it works by limiting its arsenal to just a few different guns. The visual effects aren’t amazing either, but they do the job and never seem fake. The production design is where the film shines outside of story. The world is well designed and feels like a future that could actually happen: a well-blended mix of dystopic and apocalyptic. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a sci-fi film take place mostly in corn fields, so points for originality there too. The cinematography is well done (especially during a scene where Joe goes on a drug trip) and the music is subtle but effective.
Overall, Looper is one of the best sci-fi movies in a while and easily stands up there with other modern classics like District 9, Inception and Source Code. Some may try to nitpick the film to death and point to some of its more unoriginal ideas, but look past the little details and you’ll find a film that, as a whole, is both fun and thought provoking.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10