There’s a moment in the beginning of the movie when the old Tri-Star logo popped up on-screen. Upon viewing that, I knew this was going to be a satisfying experience. The hype machine has been building on the Rian Johnson written and directed flick starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so it could have been a giant letdown after what seemed to be a lackluster summer in terms of enjoyable movies with substance. Luckily, the 118 minute time bender is exactly what the doctor ordered. This movie kicked my ass (in a good way) and all I want is another go around in order to get that wondrous feeling back again.
Looper follows Joe (JGL) as a hitman/junkie trying to save up his money and skip town to live it up in France. He’s good at this job, but he knows there are certain…expectations when it comes to his future. You see kids, in the future, time travel is used by the mob to dispose of bodies. They send the targets/victims to the past where the Loopers, the hitmen from the past, shoot them as soon as they appear. The Loopers also collect their fair share of silver for each of these hits. Not bad for loitering in a random spot waiting for a target to appear out of nowhere to shoot at. However, because of the danger in the future of which these Loopers know, there comes a point and time where the Loopers will have their loop “closed”. Basically that means that once your contract is up, you have 30 years before your future self is sent back to be blunder-bussed as well. It’s a harsh price to pay but at least they pay you handsomely in gold and drugs so you can get over it quite quickly. Unless you’re Bruce Willis of course.
That’s right, Bruce Willis shows up and he’s the older version of Joe. When Young Joe sees Old Joe, he ends up making the fatal mistake of letting his ‘Loop’ escape. Old Joe doesn’t want to die and he’s on the mission to take down the guy closing the loops in the future: The Rainmaker. Young Joe is more like, eff that, I want my life in France (or China, depending on whose advice he takes), so now he’s charged with making sure his life proceeds as scheduled instead of be ruined by his future self. Still following? Hopefully, I did an okay job because reading that back gave me a headache. Let’s just break it down by saying the story is great and it makes sense enough when you watch it all unfold on-screen as opposed to having some reviewer telling it to you secondhand. It does remind of Inception (starring JGL as well) in terms of the levels/timelines that it juggles, but the writing still keeps the pacing good without being bogged down by exposition. It does not insult the viewer, nor does it baby them at the same time.
It also might seem like familiar ground because it terms of the look, the style of writing and plot, it reminds me a lot like Brick. Obviously, it should because it was JGL and Rian Johnson behind that movie as well. But the way that the camera moves and pans, it’s such a beautiful motion and nothing seems forced. The director of photography – Steve Yedlin – throws small details in each shot that caught my attention, yet without distracting the viewer from the main action. And Rian Johnson does a terrific job of showing off his vision of this future while still allowing his actors to take their moments to shine, thus showing a trust between the director and his actors that one wouldn’t expect from a time travel/sci-fi flick. On that note, the look reminds more of an indie flick than a big-budget action one. The movie does share special effects and lens flare (which apparently is a must for Sci-Fi flicks nowadays) but it builds as more a character drama, in everyone finding their ambitions and the true nature of what drives them. There are a few wonderful images of tantrums gone wrong that come off as frightening involving a kid that stuck with me. The build-up and pacing are amazing and I can’t gush anymore about Johnson’s eye and creativity.
As a lower budget flick, there are a few moments where the effects struggle to match up to what we are used to coming from these types of movies, but that is such a minor point, it really only bears mentioning considering the glut of 200 million dollar action flicks that have zero watchability because the story sucks underneath the guise of pretty effects.
The cast is superb and it begins with JGL. Effin’. Amazing. It’s to the point where if Premium Rush came out now, I would go check it out. The fact that he shows up as a different character each time and is able to inhabit different personalities and emotional aspects to where he cannot be pigeonholed into any stereotype really shows how much he has grown and matured into one of the better actors of our generation. Obviously, everyone wants to talk about how he looks like Bruce Willis. Well folks, he doesn’t just look like Bruce Willis, he IS Bruce Willis. They manage make him look like a younger clone of the Die Hard action icon, and it is not distracting to the viewer. JGL melts into Joe to where it never becomes an issue and you fully buy into him looking a bit like his older counterpart. Bruce Willis is also great as Old Joe as he still has that punk mentality that JGL shows, but in a damaged man trying to find a remedy to his sins, sometimes by the most foul means possible. Emily Blunt is great as a woman protecting her interests that takes Young Joe in when they cross paths. Jeff Daniels is awesome as Abe, the boss of the Loopers in the current time, who is from the future who deals out orders and comments to his soldiers to make sure it sticks in his subjects’ (and the audience’s) minds. Everyone’s wonderful more or less.
My advice: Watch it. I loved the movie and I’m curious what Rian Johnson will be involved with next. He is able to build a story that does not patronize his audience and yet gives it weight in order to have it linger on their minds well after leaving the theater. JGL is also a movie star now. Give him whatever he wants, he can not do wrong. Unless he’s dressing up as a girl on an SNL sketch. That I could’ve lived without.
Images: Sony Pictures