Looper * * * *

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Director: Rian Johnson.
Screenplay: Rian Johnson.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Garret Dillahunt, Qing Xu, Frank Brennan, Tracie Thoms, Nick Gomez.

12 Monkeys“, was the last time I seen a science fiction/time-travel movie that featured Bruce Willis and if that was anything to go by then this film could do no wrong. In hindsight, it’s not as tight or as clever as it thinks it is and it’s not quite up to the standard as the aforementioned Terry Gilliam movie but it’s still thoroughly good entertainment.

The year is 2044 and organised crime has a grip on society. Hit men (known as ‘Loopers’) are employed to execute people sent back from 30 years in the future. Time travel is illegal but being under the control of the mafia, it allows them to eradicate people without a trace. One of the rules of being a Looper though, is that they must execute their future selves when they are transported back. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper but he fails to carry out the hit on his older self (Bruce Willis) and they are both forced to go on the run, potentially altering their future with very dangerous consequences.

For any good sci-fi yarn to work, it has to have an interesting and thought provoking concept. This film can certainly claim to possess that. All-be-it, it’s a little self-indulgent and doesn’t entirely hold up under scrutiny but once you let yourself go the film has a lot to offer. Wisely, it doesn’t overplay it’s futuristic setting, preferring instead to go for a more subtle and minimal approach. This helps in creating a better sense of realism for it’s genre and concept, as well as making it easier to identify with the characters – of which, the ubiquitous Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes central stage. Now, a lot has been said about the prosthetic make-up of Gordon-Levitt to have him look more like a younger Bruce Willis and I can see why people have had issues with it. For a start, it seems unnecessary to have a very talented young actor mimic one that isn’t exactly known for having a massive range in the first place. However, this was the path they chose tread and for the first half of the film I thought Gordon-Levitt captured the mannerisms of Willis very well indeed. In some ways, he gave a better performance as Willis than Willis does himself. The only problem I had with the make-up was the meticulously shaped eyebrows. They looked too dark, out of shape and well out of place. Anytime, Gordon-Levitt was onscreen in the latter half of the film, I was distracted by them. Not only did he not look like Willis, he didn’t even look the same way that he started the film. It was bizarre to say the least. That aside, the film is brilliantly structured, well realised and poses the odd noodle-scratching moment. My only criticism would be the second half; it takes the action away from the dystopian city and heads into rural farmland and around this time hits a bit of a lull. Its saving grace being an outstanding performance from young Pierce Gagnon who, just about, acts everyone else off the stage.
Upon it’s release it was heralded as 2012′s “Inception“. I wouldn’t go that far in my praise for this; it didn’t quite have that Nolan magic but in respect of being a piece of exciting and thrilling escapism, it’ll hold up amongst the best of the year. For that reason, filmmakers like Rian Johnson can’t be encouraged enough when they seem intent on delivering movies that an audience can really get embroiled in. I was a big fan of his modern-noir debut “Brick” and despite some critical panning, I also enjoyed his con-man follow-up “The Brothers Bloom“. This is, undoubtedly, a bigger step forward for Johnson but he handles it admirably and I can only hope he continues to provide innovative pieces of work like this, without the Hollywood studios getting their claws into him.

A smart and imaginative thriller that manages to squeeze out more mileage from the time-travel sub-genre. It does so by bringing a fresh and original approach to it’s paradox while also possessing a moral compass.

Mark Walker

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37 Responses to “Looper * * * *”

  1. Nice review my friend. I have to say that I actually enjoyed this a spot better than 12 Monkeys but you’re right, it isn’t perfect. I thought there was a hit of clunkiness in the first half but overall I did live it. It also proved that Emily Blunt can also look stunning in a ragged flannel shirt and mud boots!

    • Thank you sir! You found the clunkiness in the first half? I enjoyed that part, it was the second half that I found the clunk. You probably enjoyed the second half because of Ms. Blunt though didn’t you? You dog! ;-)

      Very good movie overall though but I was expecting a slight bit more, considering all the hype and critical applause it received.

      • I liked the first part but found there to be some wasted space. For example the prostitute character. She is introduced as an important character but is a complete throw away instead. I also had an incredibly hard time believing that any organized crime group would hire Paul Dano’s character for anything. But yes, Ms. Blunt did bring a certain…presence to the second half. ;)

      • I can’t argue with you there man. I had completely forgotten about the prostitute character. Wasn’t she the one that Willis pays a visit to at some point though?

        As much as I like Dano, you’re right again. He seems a bit of a wet blanket for his profession.

  2. I missed this when it played in theaters but I’m really interested in seeing this. I was a big fan of 12 Monkeys as well, so I’ll try to watch this soon. Nice review.

    • Thanks man. I preferred 12 Monkeys to this but it’s still a great film. I’m finally glad to get this review up. It’s been lying in limbo for a while now, like so many others.

  3. Good stuff Mark. I enjoyed this but didn’t love it. I struggle with time travel films as they’re always riddled with plot holes if you dissect them too much, but this did have a pretty unique premise. I just didn’t really care what happened to either of the Joes; I was much more invested in the kid and his mother. Who knows maybe I’m like Keith and that’s just because of Emily Blunt ;)

    • Cheers Chris! What are you Blunt fellas like man? It would seem that you were distracted in the latter half ;-) You’re right though, it did have plot holes but the premise was intriguing enough to see it through.

      • What can I say? She’s a fine looking lady! They should definitely stick to less aesthetically pleasing people for films with denser plots. How do they expect us to concentrate?! Alright, enough of the misogyny ;)

        Yeah there was enough to overlook the plot holes and I think Jeff Daniels’ character actually comments about how time travel fries your brain if you think about it too much.

      • Haha! Yeah, Jeff Daniels pretty much sums up Rian Johnson’s thoughts for the audience. Just enjoy the journey. It was a good one but like you say, not deserving of all the praise.

  4. Easily one of my favorite films of the year. I’m a sucker for anything Sci-fi and this has to be one of the better films to come out in that genre in quite a while. Great review man, per usual.

    • Cheers Ryan. I liked it a lot and I’m a sucker for sci-fi myself. I think my expectations were a little high though. It wasn’t of Inception quality as I hoped. Still, very good film.

  5. Great review! I liked the movie more than you did, so far it’s my number 3 of the year, really enjoyed it despite not having much interest or anticipation prior to seeing it. The make up didn’t bother me too much, they did pretty nice job as I couldn’t really recognize JGL here. I agree the kid actor was amazing, he totally stole the show!

    • Thanks Sati. I’ve yet to catch up with a few more movies from this year but it’s certainly up there with the best so far. Admittedly, what I have seen this year, I’ve been disappointed in a lot of them.
      Can’t praise the wee fella enough though. His acting was outstanding for such a young age.

  6. Great review Mark, I sadly missed this in the theater, but now I can’t wait to see it. With some mixed reviews, I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m generally a fan of sci-fi so I’m sure I’ll enjoy it. :)

  7. ray brayne Says:

    Throughout the movie the characters discourage us from thinking about time travel. Jeff Daniels and Bruce Willis both call it mind numbing shit that they don’t want to talk about. Rightly so. If they did they would see the paradoxical premise of the movie might not exist at all. A lot of famous SciFi authors Isaac Asimov, Philip Dick, Ray Bradbury all heros of my youth said in one form or another, you can not meet yourself in time! If you did, a rift would break the space time continuum! Sound picayune? Sorry but SciFi is mothers’ milk to me.
    That being said, breaking the convention created an unusual and entertaining flix that I quite enjoyed!

    • Excellent comment Ray. It is kinda swept under carpet and as I big fan of sci-fi also, I’ve seen and read much better. Philip K. Dick is a staple of mine also and I’ve yet to find anyone as imaginative or philosophical as him. Love that guys stuff!

      • ray brayne Says:

        Sir Mark. As a fellow fan of P.K.Dick, may I recommend “Martian Time Slip” a mind bending novel only he could think of. One of the premises told in the story is, Time itself would create a way to prevent you from meeting yourself. A character in the story time travels back to a meeting that has already occurred only to be murdered on the way. Time changed itself! Wow I love Science Fiction!

      • Nice one Ray. I haven’t even heard of that one. I’ll be getting onto amazon for some Xmas reading methinks. My favourite of his would has to be “Ubik” and one that I really hope makes it to the screen. Apparently Richard Linklater had it in mind before he made A Scanner Darkly.

  8. Yeah, no doubt Johnson continues his winning ways here. I enjoyed it immensly. It had a strong emotional core to it, while also being a really fun time travel flick. Glad to see you enjoyed it too!

    • Yeah, it was a good flick Fogs. Holes aplenty but they can be overlooked. I love the direction that Johnson’s stories take. Unconventional and for the most part successful. It’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

  9. Good review Mark. There’s a bit of a slip-up in terms of it actually staying interesting, but it’s always fun and entertaining to watch and I think that was enough to hold me over.

    • Cheers Dan. I totally agree. It does lose it’s way slightly but claws it back and finishes well. A good film but a little tighter around the midriff and it would have been extra special.

  10. Great review….I also loved this movie. As I’ve said on other blogs, the ending really reminded me of Firestarter.

    • It’s been so long since I watched Firestarter that I couldn’t comment on that but glad to hear you enjoyed it. It did have faults but still a good flick. Thanks for commenting man.

  11. Great review, Mark. This one was slightly disappointing for me, but I still enjoyed it a lot. My biggest issue was that it needed more action, but that’s minor, really. Agree on Pierce Gagnon. He was definitely a highlight.

  12. Hi Mark, I’m back! :D Great review mate, glad you finally saw this and loved it. I also thought Gordon-Levitt’s ‘imitation’ of Bruce Willis was great, though the make-up was distracting at times, I think they went overboard with it. Overall it’s an enjoyable sci-fi action though, I’m curious to check out Rian Johnson’s other works.

    • Hey Ruth! Good to see you back in the blogosphere. I hope your trip went well? :-)

      Yeah, I enjoyed this film quite a bit. I did expect a little more from it but still great entertainment nonetheless. Johnson’s other films are worth seeking out. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s done and hope that he keeps it up.

  13. sanclementejedi Says:

    I want to see an entire film devoted to Old Joe (Willis) as a gangster in China. That montage was my favorite part of the whole film.

    That Johnson cat is actually from the town I am living in and he shot Brick right in town.

    • I’d second that one man. A bit of old Joe doing his thing would have been great. That part of the film was too brief. Spinoff maybe? I’d certainly watch it.

      So Brick was filmed in your town? Nice man. I really like that film and it’s due a revisit for sometime soon methinks.

      Thanks for stopping by as always bro! :-)

      • sanclementejedi Says:

        well I have been living here for ten years not sure if I can count that as my town. Most people still think I am east coast due to the accent. Especially If I have had a few pints.

      • Haha. When I get a few pints down me, I become completely indecipherable ;-)

  14. I liked this one but was expecting to love it. You’re dead-on about Pierce Gagnon, that kid acted circles around Emily Blunt.

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