Rian Johnson’s Looper is explosive in how blasts beyond the structural confines of the science fiction genre. Johnson is that special type of director and storyteller who doesn’t allow himself to be creatively limited in an way, a character trait he showed with great aplomb with Brick and even more so with Looper. If nothing else, you’re going to respect the sheer amount of ambition this guy put into this elephant of a story.
The less you know of the plot, the better. In present day 2042, time travel hasn’t been invented, but it does exist in the future (2072, to be exact), and a select few of us have learned how to cash in on that knowledge. Specifically, these select few are called loopers. Loopers are trained assassins who are given a time and a place by the mafia from the future. They go to that place during that time and an individual from the future will appear out of thin air in front of them. The looper will then kill that person and destroy the evidence. Being a looper pays handsomely.
We enter the story through the eyes of looper Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Our story officially begins after all the exposition when Simmons comes face to face with his future self (Bruce Willis), who his employers from the future want wiped out. Now the chase begins.
I adore filmmakers who challenge themselves and their audience to this degree. Far too many directors sell the intelligence of their audience short and feel safer in delivering a derivative procedural rather than a bold vision of imagination. The thought behind that is that people don’t want smart movies – they want fun movies. They want the Transformers, because of that pervasive Hollywood worldview, coming across a movie such a clear and stylistic voice like Looper is a moment to be celebrated. More and more, I’m reminded how utterly critical it is to have a vision or voice when you make a film.
I couldn’t believe how unpredictable Looper ended up being. The plot you’ve read about and seen in trailers barely covers the surface of the rich terrain Johnson covers as deftly as a master of the genre. Even more surprising is just how deep the characters are and how emotional the story arcs prove to be. This is a story where each element is flawlessly rendered in the most impacting way.
Johnson is a master and I cannot stress that enough. This is the kind of depth one would expect from Ridley Scott or James Cameron, not from an upcoming director on his third excursion into film, but Johnson knows this material front and back and makes sure we “get it” with minimal problems. We not only get it, but we are blown away by it. Johnson’s grasp on unique visuals and awesome storytelling tricks keep building and getting better as the film goes on. Maybe that’s the most awing part of the film, that it keeps getting better. As good as its opening is, our attention is pulled in more and more until the tension becomes almost unbearable. I practically wrenched my back in how far I was extending forward on my seat. This is just one of those movies.
I dislike using the phrase “twists and turns” when describing a film’s mastery over unpredictable plotting. It proves to be even more of a gross miscalculation when trying to describe Looper. The film doesn’t just have surprising twists and turns. It literally changes its direction entirely from where I was expecting it to go. What it forces its characters to go through and what decisions it has them make is beyond enthralling. There’s one moment in particular for Bruce Willis’ character where my jaw dropped. These characters never make a decision that doesn’t show an evolved nature within the character, and that’s what Johnson did so well in achieving.
I felt glued to my seat throughout, but never more so than the outstanding third act. You don’t find too many modern movies where the ending can go in virtually any direction. You have no preconceptions on who lives or who dies. Everything is as up in the air as a World Series game and that was an absolute joy. Unpredictability is a hard badge of honor to achieve and one that cannot be denied once won. Johnson wins a whole chestful.
This is a virtuoso masterpiece of pacing, characterization and drama all balled up in a genre where any of the three are extremely hard to do for the tastes of modern audiences. I can’t imagine anyone experiencing this movie and finding themselves underwhelmed. There’s so much here, so many depths and layers, that there’s something for everyone to latch onto.
Looper could very well capture the same level of cultural fascination as Christopher Nolan’s Inception did back in 2010. There’s something so breathtakingly intelligent and in tune about the film’s grasp of its original premise and powerful characters. After the film, I had a two-hour discussion about it. That, in itself, is perhaps the greatest ovation I can offer.
You can find more of Joe’s writings on his movie website: http://movievu.info
In Theaters: September 28, 2012
Runtime: 118 min
Rating: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Garret Dillahunt, and Jeff Daniels
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thriller
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Official Site: http://www.LooperMovie.com