MOVIE REVIEW: Looper

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In Looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt is young Joe and Bruce Willis is old Joe. There is time travel, telekinesis, mobsters and corn fields. But do all these elements work?

LOOPER
Writer and Director: Rian Johnson
Young Joe:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Old Joe:  Bruce Willis
Abe: Jeff Daniels
Sara:  Emily Blunt
Seth: Paul Dano
Run time: 118 minutes.

Looper. In 2044 time travel has not yet been invented, but thirty years further in the future it will have been. Joe is a specialized assassin, called a Looper, so when the mob in the future want someone killed, they zap them back in time, and Loopers erase them from the future. But when future Joe is sent back, and present Joe fails to kill himself, things get interesting.

LOOPER IS BOTH CLEVER AND COOL

Right up front: this is a cool movie, with a clever, intricate, and well executed sci-fi story. The use of time travel in movies can generally be very tricky, often leading to plot holes, complications and confusions, but this movie handles the time travel elements very well. There’s a line in the movie that states “This time travel crap fries your brain like an egg”, so Looper does its best to avoid that. It establishes its rules early on, and sticks to them. The addition of TK, or telekinesis, makes for some interesting moments, plot developments and visuals.

This is no blockbuster, so the reported $30 million is put to very good use. The movie looks great, both in terms of the special effects, which are simple but effective, and the camera work, which is quite dynamic. It is not really an action movie either. While there is actually quite a bit of action, and it is well done, it is more of a smart sci-fi thriller. It is clever and understated, easily avoiding being overblown and dumb. Because of the time travel aspect, elements of the story are not told in a linear fashion. This is clever and effective, and while not necessarily confusing, it will spark some post movie conversation.

ONE MAN’S VISION

The cornerstone to this movie is Rian Johnson, who is both writer and director. It is every inch his vision that is put on screen. His script is tight, very enjoyable, and surprisingly funny. The story isn’t overly complicated, to the point that you cannot follow what is going on, nor is it dumbed down in any way. Each character is well crafted, and has his or her own little story. You don’t necessarily have to like them, but you get a very good idea of why they are who they are, and why they do what they do. The movie looks great too: The colours; the angles; and the dynamic camera movements all make this stand a cut above similar movies, of a similar scale. The way Johnson builds the tension, and the creepy factor, in the “missing limbs” scene is nothing short of masterful. His use of the music is great too. It’s not intrusive, in fact at times you barely realize it’s there, but it subtly adds a lot to the tone and feel of the movie.

The cast is solid throughout, with everyone on good form. Both Willis and Gordon-Levitt are great, as they are both portraying the same character, separated by 30 years worth of experiences. It does take a little while to get used to the look of JGL, who is brilliantly made-up to look like Willis, with Willis’ nose and mouth. It is a little distracting initially, but you soon just go with it. Dano and Daniels, both in relatively small parts, are both very good. For me the particular standout is young Pierce Gagnon, as Emily Blunt’s son. He is both adorable and worryingly angry, and carries his share of screen time very well.

BOTTOM LINE: SUCCESSFULLY DIFFERENT

So… The writing, the direction and the acting are all great. The story is clever, and engaging. The ending is rather abrupt, leaving you with a bit of a “huh!” moment, and when the credits start to roll it leaves you with a few moments to collect your thoughts, digest the movie, and come to the realization that you’ve just seen something successfully different.

Rating: ★★★★½

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