Looper (2012)

This stylish time travel sci-fi action drama is a treat for serious film enthusiasts who are also mental gymnasts.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dir. Rian Johnson
2012 | USA | Sci-Fi/Crime/Thriller | 118 mins | 2.35:1 | English
NC16 (passed clean) for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Pierce Gagnon
Plot: In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto)
Source: FilmNation

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 10 Oct 2012
Spoilers: No

I always look forward to sci-fi films that are more intelligent than their audience. Looper is that rare entry to the genre that will befuddle mainstream viewers, but give more serious folks a good mental workout.

Rian Johnson, who previously helmed the mystery-drama Brick (2005), now intrigues viewers with a premise rooted in the most mind-twisting of sci-fi concepts – time travel.

It is an original screenplay, written and directed by Johnson himself, but it heavily references films that came before it that made their mark in the genre.

The joy of watching Looper comes not only from gleefully identifying these overt references (Dark City, 1998; Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991; Minority Report, 2002, anyone?), but how these references together constitute a unique kind of cinematic experience.

It is like Quentin Tarantino doing a sci-fi movie, only with much less dialogue. Still, don’t be deceived as Looper is not an all out entertaining (and philosophical) film like The Matrix (1999), but a more quiet dramatic film punctuated with sci-fi action and violence.

It is a world brilliantly realized by Johnson on a tight budget of US$30 mil. His handling of tone and cinematography is outstanding, as his sporadic use of visual effects. The climactic act is a tour de force, though I must admit that its epilogue lacks punch.

“This time travel crap, just fries your brain like a egg…”

What I find most fascinating about Looper is that Johnson has made a film of two halves of distinctive visual style and tone. The first half works like a dark and twisted sci-fi film before it transits via a quite bizarre ‘timeline’ sequence into a suburban drama with mystery overtones.

Notice that I haven’t really talk about the plot. I do not even want to begin as Johnson is a much better storyteller. So if you like to pay ten bucks to perform mental gymnastics, I recommend you to go ahead.

There are surprisingly few conceptual flaws (other than the basic loopholes that are the hallmark of all time-travel movies), so this should work out satisfyingly in some way or another.

The performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt are half-decent. A kid named Cid (Pierce Gagnon) who plays the anchoring point of the entire plot, but who only appears in the second half of the film steals the show, channelling maturity, empathy and anger in equal measure.

Looper is a smart, assured, and mind-wrecking film that deserves multiple viewings. It is also quite creepy. If anyone dares to remake Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), he or she should probably know which kid to cast as Danny Torrance.

Grade: A-




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