Looper Review: Incredible or Incomprehensible?

Rated: 15

Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt

Time travel is really hard to get right. Many have, and many have done well: Doctor Who, Back to the Future and 12 Monkeys for example. If you put too much deep thought into time travel you’ll start creating paradoxes and plot holes and the structure of the time travel constructed in a film can be flawed.

Looper, however, is both complex yet bare-bones enough to easily wrap your head around and make you spend less time trying to figure out what’s going on and spend more time enjoying such a spectacular movie.

Looper is written and directed by Rian Johnson and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, the former of which is made up to look more like a younger version of Willis. It follows the story of Joe (Gordon-Levitt) a “Looper” – a person specifically paid to kill targets sent from the future in the present, thus removing them from the future.

Joe makes a good living doing this job, enjoying the perks of living his life while siphoning a little secret fund of his own so he can one day make a new life for himself. Of course, this is all soon about to change once it turns out that loopers have been starting to discover they’ve started to kill their future selves, culminating with Joe coming face-to-face with his future self, played by Willis.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that from this point things really escalate for the Joe of the present, his future self on the run and both versions having to face their inevitable future – the exact thing future-Joe wants to change, with or without his present self.

The film does very well to keep the audience up to speed. There is no complicated exploration of time travel without Joe explaining different elements of the job that are laced throughout the plot, as well as other sequences that do well to explain and exhibit different details in such a clean presentable way. Looper is very much based on set-up and pay-off, and it does it really, really well. Everything is clean and symmetrical, with the movie using the time-travel element to great effect in revisiting a few scenes from another perspective.

The science-fiction aspect of the movie never weighs us down. In fact the film itself is set a mere few decades in the future, with the world only evolving a little as opposed to completely being reimagined as a futuristic utopia. Looper does well balancing the time travel with the grounded, solid action.

And the action is very good. The effects both visual and audible add to the experience, and the shoot-out sequences are visceral and spaced-out perfectly. Looper has a nice pace about it, a slow burn in places, but ultimately when it needs to hit a beat it hits it the best it possibly can.

Cinematography is this film is beautiful. The way the shot is framed and lit really builds the character of the film. Sure, there’s the potential oversaturation of lens flare that comes with science fiction, but it still works. Johnson does well to incorporate many interesting camera movements and angles that really enhance the experience and where the tone of the film is, even capturing the few comedic moments in the best possible way.

The cast are top-notch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has worked with Johnson before on 2006’s Brick, and the two of them somehow improve their collaboration in this, their sophomore effort. It’s interesting to see him made up to look like the man who would eventually grow up to be Bruce Willis, but it works. Gordon-Levitt gives a great performance, showing the naïve, egotistical Joe that Bruce Willis’ older, wiser Joe frowns upon.

Willis is another standout with his performance. No stranger to time travel having previously been in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys – another fantastic movie – Willis brings his straight-to-the-point nature to the role, his character choosing wisely not to drown everything in exposition but rather telling just enough to show why he’s so motivated and how he wants his past self to listen to him. He also gets to show us that classic yippee-kai-yay aura about him as he stretches his die-hard action prowess, showing that despite the 30 years between Joe’s present and future selves, he’s still got it.

The rest of the supporting cast also shines in their roles, Jeff Daniels playing the leader of the looper ring, Emily Blunt playing a farmer with a hidden secret or two and Noah Segan as a man constantly trying to prove himself aiding in the apprehension of Joe.

Overall Looper is succinct, tidy and well presented. It doesn’t lose the audience in its complexity and it does well to set-up and pay-off every detail. There are moments where the action slows down, but this is only a good thing as it expands and develops the characters to a degree you’ll be thankful for.

It is full of many clever reveals and moments, the performances are spot-on, it looks amazing and it is the perfect mixture of all the elements it incorporates. There are no loose ends, everything comes full-circle. Or full-loop, if you will. A definite recommend, even so far as to say that if time travel existed, I’d go back and watch it all over again. Unless my past self is waiting for me with a gun. In that case I hope I grow up to be Bruce Willis.

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