‘Looper’ is far more than standard science fiction fare
Wed, Sep 26, 2012 (4:54 p.m.)
Writer-director Rian Johnson’s past features, Brick and The Brothers Bloom, may have been a little too clever for their own good, stuffing big ideas into relatively modest packages. With Looper, Johnson finally has a platform big enough for his ambitions, and he takes full advantage of it with a sci-fi epic that incorporates time travel, telekinesis and hoverbikes, along with a focus on character that smoothes over some of the inevitable logic gaps.
Two separate characters at two separate times in Looper dismiss the mechanics of time travel as too complicated to explain, and it’s better to just take the movie’s setup at face value: In the future, criminal organizations use time travel as an elaborate means of assassination, sending their targets back in time 30 years to be executed by agents known as loopers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays one such agent, a dead-eyed drug addict in 2044 who calmly blows away anonymous future victims until one day he’s faced with his own older self (Bruce Willis). Loopers close out their contracts by ending their own lives 30 years hence, but when Gordon-Levitt’s Joe hesitates for a moment, older Joe manages to escape.
The first half of Looper is mostly a chase movie, with Joe trying to make amends with his boss (an amusingly menacing Jeff Daniels) by eliminating his older self, but once Joe encounters tough, determined farmer Sara (Emily Blunt), the movie becomes something different. There are echoes of Twelve Monkeys and especially The Terminator in Johnson’s story, and the movie’s final third gets a little bogged down in familiar sci-fi tropes. But it rebounds with a satisfying, bittersweet ending, one that ties the movie together thematically even if all of the plot elements don’t quite add up.
Fitted with prosthetics to look more like Willis, Gordon-Levitt exudes toughness and vulnerability, which Willis then transmutes into grim determination. The makeup is often more distracting than effective, but the two actors manage to connect on a more existential level. For all its weighty genre trappings, Looper is really about that existential connection, and in that it mostly succeeds.