Sunday, 30 September 2012

Film Review: Looper (2012)

Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt

Every so often a sci-fi film comes along which shows a vision we’ve never seen on screen before or, at best, redefines the genre and sets the standard for all future films of the genre. Recent examples of this small group of movies include Dark City, Minority Report, The Matrix, Moon, Source Code and Inception. For approximately the first 45 minutes, Rian Johnson’s Looper was added to that exclusive group; everything about the film is exceptional from the story being told and explanation of the world we’re watching to the CGI and director’s vision of the world in 2044.

In the opening 45 minutes the story moves quickly and with a real purpose and drive as the screenplay manages to combine the sci-fi elements of time travel and flying cars with the all-important (and so often overlooked in modern film making) character development and intelligible dialogue. Ultimately, Looper doesn’t assume its audience are complete idiots with two minute attention spans.

The premise of the film alone is five star. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a 25 year old who is hired, along with several other ‘Loopers’, to kill people who are sent back from the 30 years in the future, masked, gagged, and bound, by criminal warlords. These people arrive at a specific time at a specific place and are sent back with silver bars strapped to them as way of payment to the Looper who blast them with a shotgun as soon as they appear. They are rich, cool, and are respected in a poverty-stricken metropolis. However, the term for their profession is coined because they must ‘close the loop’ on their own future selves. A Looper must never let anyone get away and the cardinal sin is to let their future selves escape. This, of course, is exactly what happens to Joe when his future self (played by Bruce Willis) arrives without a mask over his face and without his hands bound and is able to escape. The chase is on as one man must race against time to hunt down himself! What a fantastic set up Rian Johnson has created for the second and third act of this film.

It is a great shame that, with all of the back story and Philip K Dick-esque set-up in place, Looper’s energy and potential declines just at the very point when it should be in it ascendancy. Without spoilers, the decline of the film can be pinpointed to the moment Joe arrives at Sara’s (Emily Blunt) farmhouse. The action is then mostly restricted to this venue and instead of building on the premise of ‘young’ Joe vs. ‘older’ Joe and story exploring what might happen when you’re chasing yourself, the scenes are split between Bruce Willis going on a Terminator mission and Joseph Gordon-Levitt trapped in a family drama. This is not how the film set itself up to the audience and the pay off and subsequently storylines are a huge disappointment.

The two major flaws in Looper’s second and third acts are because of characters and character development. So much was put into developing Joe and the world of Looper at the start, but the reason why ‘older’ Joe needs to escape being killed is explained to us in a few montage scenes between him and his wife which have all the emotional depth of a Calvin Klein perfume ad. Compare this to the emotional impact of John Anderton losing his son in Minority Report, Cobb losing his wife in Inception, or Sam’s separation from his family in Moon and the way this loss and heartache is explained in the respective screenplays, the difference in class is abundant. The motivations are clear but they are not convincing. Moreover, what ‘older’ Joe then has to do is a complete rip-off of The Terminator and that was another crushing let down.

The second flaw is in the introduction of Sara’s young son. Although pivotal to the eventually story Looper tells, the inclusion of a child who has special powers (and I’ll say no more) is simply quite a bore when it turns out all he needs is a hug and told ‘mummy loves you’. His story is never enthralling, gripping, or exciting; in other words, the exact opposite of what the film set up. Moreover, I personally don’t like children taking lead roles in adult films so this didn’t sit well with me; there are of course exceptions, but Looper is not one of them.

Looper is a film with much to enjoy and will certainly benefit from second or third viewings as many films which present the audience with such an incredible premise do. However, it is only half the film it should be.

1 comment:

  1. Everybody’s good, the writing is top-notch, and the direction kept me on the edge of my seat, but there was a human element that just didn’t come around full-circle for me. I really liked this movie, but I didn’t love it and that’s a bit disappointing considering all of the hype. Good review.