Friday, 12 October 2012

[Review] Looper - It's all a matter of time.

In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to 'close the loop' by transporting back Joe's future self. 

In the opening act of Looper 'future-mob boss' Abe played by Jeff Daniels turns to our protagonist Joe (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) and says 'Those movies you're copying, are just copying other movies.'  This is pretty much the best way to describe Ryan Johnson's Looper; a time and reality shifting slice of Science Fiction that seems to be channeling Twelve Monkeys channeling La Jetee. Fortunately, like Joe's vintage swag, Looper has enough confidence in itself to sell it as one of the more tightly constructed genre movies of the year. 

Interestingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly given Johnson's previous films Brick and The Brothers Bloom) Looper belongs very much in the film-noir tradition, from the visual ques of Blade Runner (and Children of Men and iRobot) to the grey scale morality that the genre is typically known for, which is an even bigger surprise for a mid-budget, post-Summer blockbuster. 

Son, that ain't right.
Joesph-Gordon Levitt is quickly emerging as one of the more interesting actors of his generation, more an everyman compared to the Ryan Goslings and Bradley Coopers. His Joe is a product of the film's rather poorly implemented social/economic commentary. JGL is convincingly disillusioned, but at the end his character's quasi-religious sacrifice is not. And some ropey prosthetic make up produced a few raised eye brows from myself. 

To play 'Future Joe' Bruce Willis has calls on his history of violence and determination to deliver a man carried by mental regret. Still an utterly convincing physical presence, Willis has the tendency to spit out his lines about a what a waste his life was. Motivated by the murder of his wife by the future enigmatic warlord of the future 'The Rain Maker.' So when they come for him, he fights off his captors and returns to the past in order to murder the child version of the Rainmaker in order to save his wife. (She, herself is an obvious nod to Marker's La Jetee, framed in close up, completely silent and frequently shown as a photo in a watch, emulating Marker's most famous scene.) To do so, he has to commit a crime that most audience's will find unforgivable. This is where the film slides into an area most wouldn't venture. Problematically, The Rainmaker presence in the future isn't felt. We are told he's a monster, and shown brief clips of news footage, but it's not really enough to convince us completely. This makes Old Joe's actions a little harder to defend.

As for the time travel, well anyone familiar with it will known that it comes with it's own give and takes and Looper does will not to get bogged down it, even Willis himself turns to younger self and says 'Try not to think about it too hard.' This gives Johnson the ability to drop explanation whenever it suits him and settle with 'Ahhhhhh time travel!' An admission of defeat for some, perhaps. But for me, Looper has enough going around it for it to mostly get away with such a cheap tactic. 

Else where Paul Dano pops up as JGL's fiend and fellow Looper who can't find it in himself to kill his future self, in one of the film's best sequences, Future Dano (trying to escape) is begins loosing fingers and all sorts, as his present self is tortured. Emily Blunt's single mum, determined to care and defend her son (who may be the child that grows up to become the Rainmaker) even if that means shooting a couple of 'vagrants.' She's a call for women to stay at home and look after their kids or else they'll grow up evil, while Joe is damaged but responsible man willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. Yeah... at this point things get a little skewered. 

The film has more than enough eye popping moments, including some terrific wide shots and an occasional flourish of technical wizardry of Zach Snyder or Richard Kelly that make the film very much feel like a cyber punk western as much as a neo-noir. The repeated image of an eye, circle (or loop ahhhhh) is underplayed, feeling like something the movie snatched at for meaning as opposed to understanding and utilizing as a key motif. 

Where is John Connor... err I mean the other one.

Looper is a movie, copying a movie. It's seen the philosophical La Jetee, it's seen Twelve Monkeys, among pretty much anything else. It picks and chooses what it wants from it's sources before confidently strutting off into a refreshing grey area that most Hollywood pieces would be afraid to touch with a stick. We wont be discussing Looper in ten years time, we may not necessarily even be discussing it by the end of the year. However it's a tightly constructed, and enjoyable high concept blend of Western and Noir tinged Sci-fi that is sure thing when it comes to timeless entertainment.


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