I Saw A Film Today… Looper

Time travel has always been an intriguing and rather puzzling subject, especially in film. You can’t be vague with it, normally. If you are not specific about the dynamics and even the method of the travel, then the plot will fall apart quickly and easily. Even Back to the Future adhered to a set structure. So I was pretty excited that Rian Johnson was making Looper, a film on that exact subject.

In 2044, Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, conveniently) works as a looper in Kansas, which has become a place run by crime organizations and absent of a middle class. A Looper is an executioner basically, but with a twist. A Looper executes hooded people sent back in time by future mafias, because disposing of a body in the future outside of time travel is nearly impossible.

A Looper’s career is very lucrative but also very short. A Looper closes his loop (career) when he kills his future self. Then the Looper is given the ability to live thirty years off the cash he made from looping until they are sent back in time to be executed by their past self.  Which is technically an infinite time loop with infinite possibilities but is never really explored in this film.

Joe’s end of the job is actually pretty easy if you don’t have a problem with taking the life of another. Blast a hole in the chest of your mark as soon as they appear and dispose of the body. But when Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) appears unmasked in front of him, he hesitates and allows his loop to escape. Young Joe must now kill Old Joe but Old Joe has his own plans to fix something in the future. And all this seems to be connected to a farmer named Sara (Emily Blunt) and her mysterious son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).

Looper is one of the most well crafted films I’ve seen this year, and the main trailer holds no justice and rather misleading to what this film is actually about. It would lead you to believe that this film is one with many fights and showdowns between Gordon-Levitt and Willis when in fact the two men only meet directly possibly three times. This film is much deeper and more complex than the simple battle to the death story you’re lead to believe.

Many interesting questions are posed here as well. Such as, if you knew that at some point you must kill the future version of yourself, would you be able to pull the trigger when the moment arrived? Or, what would you do with your life if you were only given a set amount of years to live? Sure, in one way or another these questions have been asked but never so intriguingly or with quite as many layers. Unfortunately with a film of this nature, some questions are posed and never really answered. What exactly is Old Joe’s plan when he finishes his “goal”? There is still the younger version of himself to contend with.

Rian Johnson does a brilliant job of seamlessly moving been the years 2044 and 2074. These worlds of social decay, where everyone carries a shotgun to protect themselves, is stark, grim, and frighteningly something that doesn’t seem too unbelievable. His unique brand of story telling from his previous two works work stunningly here. There were many moments when I thought “wait, did that really just happen”? And not many filmmakers get that reaction out of me. Well, at least not in a good way.

One of the biggest selling points of this film is its great cast. Joesph Gordon-Levitt shined this summer but the real gem of his career this year is Looper. I was actually worried that the added make-up to make him look more like a younger Bruce Willis would be distracting based on preview images and trailer spots. But really it a subtle change. This is also the best work from Willis I’ve seen in years. He further proves his experience and grows as well in the action genre here.

Jeff Daniels is great as well as Joe’s boss. He’s mild-mannered and slow speaking, but underneath this man lies a raging monster who doesn’t forgive. Little Pierce Gagnon is also scary as hell. That kid has a touch of Damien from The Omen in him. As for Emily Blunt’s performance, it is rather mundane. Paul Dano’s too, sadly.

Looper is a mind-bending experience that is tight and plot-driven the entire way through. Just when you think you have a grasp on what is going on, Johnson flips the script on you.

Verdict: See it!

*Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity, and drug content.

**Special Thanks to the lovely Marla “Harley” Joy for sharing this cinematic adventure with me.

***Poster by the great Midnight Marauder

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