Newest Review: ... place for a simple execution, using a blunderbuss to the head. You see, in the future, when time travel will be invented, disposing of b... more
Member Name: SWSt
Advantages: Strong realisation of the near future, original (but not too complex) plot
Disadvantages: Slow-paced at times, predictable ending
The year is 2044. Time travel has not yet been invented, but in 2074 it has and is controlled by ruthless criminals who use it to eliminate enemies. They kidnap them and send them back to 2044 where a "Looper", a paid assassin kills them and disposes of the body, so that there is no evidence of the crime in the future. There's a catch, though. If a Looper is still alive in 2074, he is tracked down, kidnapped and sent to the past where he is eliminated by his past self in order to "close the loop" and remove any evidence of the murders.
If you are already confused and worried that Looper is going to one of those mind-blowingly complicated time travel films like Donnie Darko, rest easy. For a start, that brief plot summary tells you pretty much all you need to know about Looper. Secondly, the key elements are explained much better during the film's opening sequences. Looper has a veneer of complexity, but once you grasp the essential elements it is actually reasonably straightforward.
It's possibly fair to say that Looper never fully exploits its time travel idea as much as it might and is not always as convincing or coherent as it might be. It certainly skirts around things like time travel paradoxes which are a normally a staple of the science fiction scene. In some ways, this works in the film's favour. After all, there are already dozens of films that deal with time travel paradoxes, so it would have difficult for Looper to find a fresh angle. On the other hand, you sometimes get the feeling that Looper is avoiding these issues simply because it doesn't have any convincing answers to offer!
If you stop and think about Looper for more than a few minutes, you will identify plot holes large enough to drive several buses through. This is actually less of an issue than you might think. The fact is that Looper will mostly keep you entertained and whilst you are aware of plot holes as the film progresses, they are not enough to destroy it. It's only after the end credits roll that you stop and think about how big some of those holes actually are; and by that time you don't care because you've already enjoyed the film.
It's true that there are times when the packing is a little slow and it can be a little too talky. This is not really a film that supports large amounts of dialogue or fumbling attempts at character development. As with so many modern films, it could have benefited from a bit of tighter editing and the loss of 15 minutes or so off the running time would not have harmed it at all. The ending could also have done with a rethink, since it shifts completely in tone and is rather predictable. As events were progressing, I could think of only two possible outcomes: a really obvious one that they would never go for, and another one, which they did. For all its outward veneer of complexity, Looper is, at times, disappointingly simple.
Where it is very strong is in creating a vision of the world 30 years from now. It has a Bladerunner vibe to it: everything is still recognizable to early 21st century eyes, but subtly different, evolved in small, but significant ways. Society has degraded even further and the cult of "me" and selfish narcissism has got worse. Depressingly, you can well believe that in thirty years' time, Looper's vision will be the reality. This gives the film a sort of gritty realism which allows you to overlook some of the weaknesses of the plot.
Putting aside the fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis look nothing like each other, the cast on the whole do a very good job. After strong performances in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, Gordon-Levitt is quickly establishing himself as the go to man for a whole range of roles, particularly if you want someone hero can star in the more thoughtful type of blockbuster. His Looper Joe is both horrible and curiously attractive.
Bruce Willis backs this up with a good supporting turn as Joe's older self who is out to change the future. It might be Willis doing what he has always done (the furrowed brow and trademark smirk), but it's a perfectly acceptable performance. It might lack some of the emotional intensity of some of the other roles, but this is because the script often sidelines Willis in favour of the relationship between Joe and Sarah (Emily Blunt). Crucially, both Gordon-Levitt and Willis turn what should be a deeply unlikable character into someone the audience can root for, in both his present and future self.
Emily Blunt is excellent as Sarah, the mother of a young child that Young Joe seeks to protect (for reasons far too complicated to go into here). OK, so her falling for Joe is a little too convenient and rushed to be believable, but she does well with a role that requires her to be both feisty and scared; pulling off those two very different emotions with conviction.
The best performance, though, comes from the youngest member of the cast. Pierce Gagnon might only be about eight, but what he lacks in years he more than makes up for in acting ability. His performance is very reminiscent of the young Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense and he shows an emotional versatility far, far beyond his level of experience. One moment he is a screaming, terrifying demonic child, the next he is a lost little boy, anxious for a hug. It's an incredible, assured performance which gives the film an emotional heart you might not normally expect. If (heaven forbid) they were to (re)remake The Omen, Gagnon should be first choice for Damian.
Overall Looper was better than your average blockbuster. It might be a little slow in places and never fully exploit some of the ideas it floats, but it's fun on several different levels. Forget about plot holes or inconsistencies and concentrate on the positives: an interesting storyline, strong visualization of a future society and good performances from a likeable cast. It's not perfect, but it's a damn sight better than many other films I've seen this year.
Director: Rian Johnson
Running time: approx. 118 minutes
(c) copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: An interesting concept which never quite reaches its full potential