Looper is the newest addition to the time travel genre as it weaves a tale of self-destruction and renewal. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, who has been on every film geeks radar since Brick, Looper has been one of the more anticipated films for many avid filmgoers. From the earliest previews Looper looked to be a mix between Drive and Blade Runner but as the film unravels it shows something that many Sci-Fi films don’t have, heart. A surprisingly touching human drama, Looper is an excellent look at the circle of time. Half awesome and half sentiment, Looper is an emotional roller coaster ride and the best science fiction film of recent memory.
Set in the near future, Looper explores the idea of time travel and one disturbing way it could be used. The story follows Joe who is a Looper, which is a person that is paid to assassinate people from the future. Joe spends his days and nights enjoying a vice filled lifestyle without a care in the world until he is faced with the task of killing his future self. This basic story outline shows the cool paradox that the film is built on but that is just the surface of this movie. The story is a complex narrative with many twists and turns and constant action to keep the plot chugging along. This screenplay is one of the more impressive to come along because it is able to take the story into many different places. Instead of just relaying on the main premise like a one trick pony, Rian Johnson builds on top of it creating higher stakes and intense character drama. If Brick was the appetizer then this is the main course with many different elements clashing together to make for a satisfying whole. This screenplay is dense as the viewer is left guessing where things will end up and shaken when a plot twist takes the story in a completely different direction.
Then there is Rian Johnson’s direction, which is masterful as he explores the elements and strengths of the Sci-Fi genre. It would seem that Johnson enjoys his first attempt at Sci-Fi here but he doesn’t let it overwhelm the emotional human drama, which is the center of the film. Like many great filmmakers, Rian is able to let the genre compliment the story and not fall into inevitable and cliché. Looper is best when it is exploring themes of loss, regret, and nature vs. nurture though this is not to downplay how cool the movie does look. Fashioned almost like a Blade Runner sequel, Looper features a desolate future where gangsters run wild and the police are almost non-exist. One of the things I liked most about the film was the way it is able to create a future that is advance while not letting that future get to far ahead of itself. I don’t think that 2044 will look like a trash bin as it kinda does in Looper but Rian Johnson’s doesn’t indulge in a future where everything looks like an iPhone 5.
This must be the year of Joseph Gordon Levitt as he stars (or costars) in his 3rd high profile film of the year. He plays the younger Joe and is the perfect lead man for the film. Levitt is able to handle his character’s arc with grace and just proves that he is one of the most talented young actors out there. This must also be Bruce Willis’s come back year as he has been in two excellent films (the other being Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom). He plays the role of a man filled with regret beautifully and helps to carry his storyline perfectly. This is my favorite Emily Blunt performance ever as she plays a mom bent on protecting her child. She is never frustrating as a strong yet weak woman character that has plenty of moments to shine. Then there is the performance of Pierce Gagnon who carries the weight of many pivotal scenes with the pose of an actor far older than himself. This is the child performance of maybe my lifetime. High praise for the little tike. If there is one disappointment it is the small role for Paul Dano who deserves bigger and more impactful roles. I mean has nobody seen There Will Be Blood?
Even though Rian Johnson and Co. do enjoy there time molding the future, Looper is all about the effects of time. Time Travel has been something that film has gone back to time and time again and yet the logistics of it is still a mystery. Looper does a great job of making time travel plausible enough to suspend belief without getting trapped in its web of possibilities. After the film was done me and my girlfriend spent much of the ride back home discussing how the events in the film could of worked. When we started to talk about parallel universes was when the conversation got to big for its own good because discussing Looper’s time travel specifics is meaningless. Like when Older Joe tells his younger self that if we were to explain time travel we would be here for hours. Enjoying Looper is to let those hard questions go and enjoy the time travel that is put on film. Looper does a good job of having enough time travel to keep our interest without having too much to lose our sense of reality. Time travel is very cool here and this maybe the greatest time travel movie of all time but the real heart is in the drama and the time travel elements don’t impede on that (If anyone was counting I said time travel nine times in that paragraph).
Looper is an intelligent science fiction film that can stand with Moon, District 9, and Inception as one of the genre’s newest classics. It is a wonderful thrill ride as the past chases the future and the future runs from the past. As much as I loved the film’s futuristic technology and cityscapes, Looper’s real power is in its story of a man facing what is, what was, and what will be. Are we inherently the way we are or does the circumstances of our life determine the person we become? There is something wonderful about seeing two people who are the same person drinking coffee together with thirty years between them. They might be able to tell you what the other wants for lunch but they are two very different people. Built on different impulses and perceptions, life has a funny way of changing a person until they can’t recognize the person that came before them. Looper shows life as an equation and how one miscalculation can change the course of one life or the lives of many.