I’m a big fan of both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so it didn’t take much convincing for me to go and see Looper, the new Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller time-traveling flick. What’s more, the film looked like an original, which was nice after a summer full of reboots, sequels and comic-book movies.
For those who don’t know what Looper’s about, here’s how IMDb describes it: “In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self.”
The movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson, who previously directed two episodes of Breaking Bad (Fly and Fifty-One) and 2005’s critically claimed Brick, which also starred Gordon-Levitt. Johnson has a reputation as an up-and-coming filmmaker that brings a healthy does of originality to his films. Johnson’s style is a bit different and somewhat of an acquired taste, but I was more than willing to give it a try.
Ironically, Looper had me going in circles as to whether or not I liked it. The story was certainly unique, but it began to convolute itself with an assortment of elements. For example, as if the time-traveling story wasn’t engaging enough, Johnson throws in a telekinesis component that eventually leads to a bunch of new conflicst. What starts off with Joe (Gordon-Levitt) taking on the mob entities, most notably Jeff Daniels’ character Abe, soon breaks into tangents such as Joe vs. Old Joe (Willis), Old Joe vs. the future/Rainmaker, etc. There was a lot going on, and while I think Johnson did an admirable job juggling it all, I couldn’t help but wonder if the film would have been better had it devoted itself to just one major element/conflict.
To be fair, I believe I’d appreciate this film even more with a second viewing, which would allow me to pick up on subtleties I know I missed. Much like Inception, this film was an original, and sometimes it’s hard appreciating an original the first go around after your brain has been bombarded with big-budgeted blockbusters and sequels. On the same token, Looper had just a $30 million budget, which meant Johnson was limited in the amount of special effects and location shoots he could accomplish. He was aware of this and did an excellent job of spending money where it’d get the most bang for a buck.
Not only did Looper have a strong story, the performances were solid. Gordon-Levitt gave one of his best performances to date, and will continue to rise in Hollywood. Likewise, Emily Blunt was barely recognizable as Sara, and I feel that’s a testament to her talents. Willis’ showing wasn’t anything great, but he shouldered his load and did a decent job, while Daniels, while underused, was ominous as a man from the future. Along the same lines, the lesser known Noah Segan, who worked with Johnson in Brick, did a great job as Kid Blue, a clumsy yet devoted henchman.
Here are a few other random thoughts on the film:
- Gordon-Levitt’s prosthetic, which he wore to look more like a young Willis, was great. I had heard it was noticeable and off putting, but I didn’t find that to be the case. In fact, I didn’t even notice it.
- Paul Dano had a limited role as Seth, but he made the most of it. The guy is a talented actor and having him as a supporting character helped strengthen the film as a whole.
- It was cool to see the black cowboy outfits the hit men in the future wore were teased in one seen. Keep an eye open for a “Bad Bob” poster and toy in the Cid’s bedroom.
- Note Blunt’s character, Sara, uses some sort of mechanized crop duster to water her crops. It’s essentially a “Rainmaker”.
I left the theater feeling conflicted about Looper, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. I’ll definitely give it another watch when it comes out on DVD, and in the meantime I’d recommend to those who go and see it, keep an open mind and remember that it’s an original. If you judge it against the norm, you will not fully appreciate what it has to offer.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 71%