Directed by: Rian Johnson Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt Running Time: 1 hr 58 mins Rating: R Release Date: September 28, 2012
PLOT: A young hit man (Gordon-Levitt) who kills clients sent to him from the future must stop his older self (Willis) from changing time.
WHO'S IT FOR? Movie lovers, whether sci-fi has a particular place in your life or not - come fall in love all over again. Students of film, if you've ever thought to yourselves, "When am I going to use this?" when it comes to making shot lists or concise narratives, here is your explanation, as made possible by your new idol. And please good people of the world, let us reward Rian Johnson's creativity with our box office business!
EXPECTATIONS: I did like Johnson's previous Brother's Bloom, though I thought it borrowed too much from director Wes Anderson in too many ways. Gordon-Levitt has had a pretty great track record as far as I'm concerned, and I was very curious to see what was behind that Bruce Willis makeup of his. Inklings that Shane Carruth, writer/director of indie sci-fi cult classic Primer had somehow assisted with Looper further made this one sound more enticing.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe: As the actor is sure to clarify himself, this isn't an imitation of Bruce Willis, but simply a younger version of the Willis we see now (and it's more advanced than Josh Brolin doing Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 3). This is a role that begins with Gordon-Levitt's natural youthful noir-ish cool, but then immediately becomes something unique in itself. Ultimately, by showing great limberness in this movie's physical scenes and by presenting an earnest idea of youthful cockiness in his interaction with Willis, this role plays for Gordon-Levitt like a mature young actor who can easily be taken seriously, despite the idea that he looks a bit like a young Bruce WIllis with a little too much eyebrow make-up. Score: 7
Bruce Willis as Old Joe: Though Looper caters to him (it's not often that another actor works overtime to be someone else), Willis doesn't reduce this performance into one of his autopilot action roles. Willis is able to get underneath the darker, desperate motivations of this character, while playing him so that despite the crazy things he aims to execute, nothing is entirely black or white. His machismo is used quite nicely for this movie's colder moments, and his sparing use of visible emotion can be very effective. And for the sake of putting him to historical use, there is indeed a moment in which Willis proves he can shoot up a hallway of bad guys and still look like a badass. Score: 7
Jeff Daniels as Abe: With a fuzzy bear beard and a funny robe, Daniels is a strong force in his spare scenes as the only character in Looper who could be considered good or evil. With his calm demeanor but heavy stares, Daniels makes for a successfully intimidating gang boss of his group of young Loopers. This is the type of bad guy level temperament that made Albert Brooks so malevolently enticing in last year's Drive. Score: 7
Emily Blunt as Sara: Like mostly everything in Looper, Emily Blunt is very unexpected in this role. Yet with Blunt's charisma and her plain bizarreness as a blonde with a southern accent, you certainly get with this character, and in turn she becomes a good way to ease audiences into accepting the movie's stark change of pace. Individually, Blunt adds her own power to this part as a mother who is trying to take care of a son that brings her great anxiety. Score: 7
TALKING: Kicking this movie off with some Gordon-Levitt grit, Looper has a succinct voiceover in the beginning that explains all of the ideas within the movie so that everyone can get immediately on board. And for a movie about the black hole logistics of time travel, Looper has a funny awareness in which it advises audiences at least twice to not get wrapped up in the entire logic. Thankfully, this movie is smart enough that we can take it for its word. Score: 7
SIGHTS: The style of Looper is more than just impressively calculated, it just feels so correct to presenting this story that is unlike so much else. Cinematography disciplined by years of economic indie filmmaking (like Johnson's debut Brick) fits well to this presentation of the future that isn't that bright or glamorous. The usage of such indie tools invigorates it, keeps it personal, and prevents it from looking like other blockbusters that can lose their speciality when cut up in the editing room, or dazzled with too much lens flare. It's grand to look at Looper just as much as it is to watch it. Score: 9
SOUNDS: In keeping with the movie's grimy futuristic feel, Looper has a couple of club sequences that heighten the grabbing aural experience of this movie, just like the loud gun shots from Joe's blunderbuss gun. Johnson throws in some older music tracks to the film's emotional moments, using soul and R&B in places one wouldn't normally expect. His brother Nathan provides a score that is fitting to the mysterious background, but certainly isn't anything as spectacular as what the directing brother is pulling off. Score: 7
BEST SCENE: There was something incredible to me about the scene with Cid and Jesse. I had absolute no idea the story was going to do something like that.
ENDING: This ending didn't knock me out as much as I would have liked, but it is still nicely poetic, and a bit eerie.
REWATCHABILITY: Definitely. This is the first time in a long time that after seeing a movie I had to call a friend (sorry, Adam), just to tell them they had to see it when it came out three weeks in the future. It would be very exciting to see these shots again, and to dive deeper into the many layers of this story.
Usually in this gig of careful adjective arrangements and waving your middle finger at movies like Won't Back Down, you try to keep your cool in check - your crumbs of intellect on display. With Looper, that isn't possible. This movie is a glorious ass-kicker of mainstream-made movie-making that disarms you with its utter awesomeness, and could reduce any composed movie lover into a salivating and ranting fanboy or fangirl. To attempt to maintain my prestige as film critic laureate, I will refrain from uttering mom-disappointing statements like "This movie is f**king cool!" and will openly opine that I extremely enjoyed experiencing Johnson's sci-fi bonanza Looper, from its gripping introduction to its unpredictable finish.
Far more sophisticated than the giddy feelings it makes me want to express on top of a mountain, Looper is a full-fledged love explosion to witness, whether it is the surprising shifts of the story's focus, the sharp editing that wastes not a frame, or the gorgeous cinematography (oh, and the action is exciting as well). Looper is the rare movie where you find your jaw doing its not-so-literal dropping not just for what storytelling stunts the script is daring to pull off, but for the incredible aesthetic work that presents it, something that stands as its own impressive spectacle.
This is filmmaking at its most pure; before the movie is reliant on the power of its stars (specifically, worshiping Willis), the spectacle of time travel, or even about the desire to compose simply visually cool moments (of which this movie is a cache of such), Looper is all about the story, and takes on this task with grand inspiration in tact. It starts with a delicious science fiction concept that sounds like a genre geek's dream story (mixing time travel with noir-ish hit men). Looper then consistently builds on top of this hooky base, maintaining the surprising joy that this movie has to offer, and with fantastic energy. By touching upon elements from different genres that invigorate its adrenaline, Looper heightens the craziness of such an easy-to-follow and structurally sound story, while preventing such randomness from chiming like simple winks, or even worse, wrong turns. A beautiful thing to watch its unfolding, no thirty minute segments of Looper look the same.
This ambitious science fiction film, concocted by a showman storyteller whose pure intent with movie-making is still efficiently homegrown, is a personal reminder of why cinematic storytelling can make for an overall exhilarating experience. Overflowing with giddy originality incomparable to anything in theaters now, Looper is certainly the perfect antidote to anything coming out wide this week.
In a long future's time, we will still remember the movies of 2012 for Looper, one of the year's most impressive successes.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10