The Avengers, Prometheus, Titanic, Star Wars: Episode I, The Hunger Games, Skyfall, Amazing Spider-Man, and some film about a man dressed like a bat – arguably the biggest and most prominent films in 2012. Sitting in the middle, under their overbearing shadows, is a little time-travelling thriller by writer/director Rian Johnson. But while repeat viewings of classics such as Star Wars and Titanic were a breath of fresh air, blockbusters such as Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus failed to deliver on a memorable story. Could the director, who helped turn Joseph Gordon-Levitt into a serious adult actor in 2005’s Brick do it again with Looper?
The year is 2044. Kansas. A young man named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is enjoying the highlife in a city ridden with crime and certain individuals have evolved into having telekinesis or TK. His job as a Looper is pretty simple – take out the head bagged victims that have been teleported 30 years from the future where time-travel has been illegalised but is controlled by a crime syndicate wanting to leave no trace of their victim’s existence in the future. To close the ‘loop’, the crime syndicate also send back an aged Looper so no traces of them could be found in the future either. A Looper knows when he has killed his future self as instead of silver bars for payment, the victims bring with them gold bars which effectively gives the Loopers’ thirty years of luxury.
One day, Joe pauses when he sees his latest victim; it’s an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) – which ultimately means his contract as an executioner has expired. Older Joe manages to escape younger Joe’s kill patch in the middle of a field, which also means Abe (Jeff Daniels), young Joe’s boss, is not a happy man. “Don’t worry – I’m going to fix this. I’m going to find him. And I’m going to kill him,” young Joe tells his employers. His incentive is having bullets shot towards him because if young Joe dies – so does the old one, meaning young Joe won’t get his bars of gold. So begins a big chase of young Joe tracking down old Joe except old Joe wasn’t sent back by the crime syndicate – he came back on his own accord. To fix something that went terribly wrong in the future. His future. And he’ll correct it at any cost.
Time travel. It’s quite a pickle to navigate around. Many have attempted it with some level of success from James Cameron’s The Terminator, Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future Trilogy and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys which also starred Bruce Willis. Johnson confirmed that thinking about time travel does create plot holes and contradictions, thus draining the essence of the story – it’s far better to think of it as an element which motivates the movie rather than dictate it.
Looper is a three act film. Everything you’ve seen in the trailers, film stills and promotional cast interviews only deal with the first act. The latter two acts have never really been acknowledged and as a result consume the audience’s attention due to the surprising and equally disturbing turn of events. And they really are disturbing. Providing any small clue as to how significant Pierce Gagnon and Emily Blunt’s character play out in these acts will deny the way Johnson wishes the audience to see the film. However what can be said is Blunt’s performance as a mid-western mother is adequately convincing while Gagnon steals every scene he’s in – especially when he’s upset.
The chemistry between Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both humorous and hugely enjoyable. JGL had to endure hours of prosthetic make-up to look like a young Bruce and he succeeds brilliantly mimicking his sly smile, stiff shoulders and sexy stare. There were moments when JGL was so convincing when talking to Bruce that it was difficult to distinguish who was performing the best Bruce Willis act. While many may find JGL art work on his face distracting, much like the time travel issue, it needs only be placed in the background to be convinced JGL is a younger version of Mr Willis. If anything, his performance will help convince you. And while Bruce does share an equal amount of screen time when he appears in the story – much of the movie is carried by JGL which confirms two things: he’s solidified himself to step up and take even bigger lead roles and has grown significantly as an actor making 2012 a landmark year for him. Bruce himself is excellent taking some of the emotional weight on his shoulders, expertly uses weapons and carries out some horrific acts that would make even John McClane blush.
The promotional material may entice an audience expecting an action caper synonymous with a Michael Bay film or a long winded chase movie like Bourne. It’s actually a visual and intellectual stimulant that will shock, compel and entertain you… somewhat. It’s not entirely perfect. It fluctuates in moments during the second act, a lot is expected from the audience to comprehend the science behind some of the technology used and the ending, arguably, doesn’t quite end but rather stops short of an open ending. But these are minor criticisms to a wonderful, fresh, exciting, extremely brilliant sci-fi feature. Whatever happens, this film cannot be missed because it will be talked about in ten years time. Watch it so you can share an opinion. If not then watch it for JGL’s amazing performance as young Bruce. There’s no other film released at the moment that comes closed to the brilliance of Looper.
Reviewed by Vaskar S. Kayastha