Looper is a refreshingly excellent film and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you want to see a simple action movie that doesn’t have a profound plot, has limited dialogue and is bereft of all character development, Looper may not be your kind of movie. Yes, there are many action sequences, yes there is quite a lot of shooting involved, and yes it does star Bruce Willis, but Looper achieves what almost every action movie fails to: it has a focus on plot, character development and dialogue. It is an action sci-fi movie with depth, and moviemakers need to take note of how the basic elements of storytelling should not be entirely replaced by mindless action pieces and CGI.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick) and starring the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels, Looper is set in the year 2072. Thirty years ahead of this year, however, time travel has been invented and after being outlawed, it becomes a tool of the mob. When the mob wants to dispose of someone, they send them back in time to be killed by hired gunmen known as ‘Loopers’. In the future a Kingpin emerges, the Rainmaker, and orders that all loops be closed, that is, all Loopers are sent back their future selves to be killed. Enter Joseph Gordon-Levitt (sporting somewhat distracting prosthetics) and his Bruce Willis future self.
What audiences may recognise is that Looper borrows some familiar concepts from books and movies. The dystopian future, with its emphasis on poverty, crime, drugs and money is similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, and the use of time travel as a means for destroying what is yet to come is similar to James Cameron’s The Terminator. I found these similarities more a homage than the result of little imagination. Interestingly, however, Looper is given depth in dealing with notions similar to Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. The philosophical questions of morality and the innate selfish vs selfless nature of man runs through the film, giving it an added strength and meaning. Amongst this, there is as much shooting and violence as you would expect from a movie with Bruce Willis in it. Some would argue that the scenes where children are in the firing line are confronting – which they are, but this adds a necessary element of horror to the moral dilemma Bruce Willis’ character faces, and it is quite brave of Rain Johnson to include this specific type of horror as a central analysis of morality in a flawed character.
At all the right places the movie slowed for character development. The cinematography is unique and superb. The performances by the cast (except for perhaps one scene where Bruce Willis doesn’t quite pull off crying) are genuine. Particularly, the performance by Pierce Gagnon, who plays Cid, the 10-year-old genius (and hunted) son of Emily Blunt’s character, Sara, is incredibly impressive. He steals every scene.
Overall, I give Looper 4.5 out of 5. It’s a MUST see movie and one of the best so far for 2012. Rain Johnson does a fantastic job creating a smart action-thriller-sc-fi that has the heart and emotional depth most movies in similar genres lack. I look forward with great eagerness to his future projects. The intricacies of the time travel logic may not be air-tight, but it is a film that pays as much attention to its dialogue, plot and character development as it does its unique style – something which, unfortunately, is becoming rarer at the box office.
See Looper. You won’t be disappointed.
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