Looper (dir. Rian Johnson, 2012) – In the future when time travel has been outlawed, crime syndicates send victims back in time and assassins known as ‘loopers’ to ensure they are erased from the future.
Rian Johnson unfailingly strives for heart in this inventive sci-fi thriller that may fry a few brains.
“The movies that you’re dressing like are just copying other movies. It’s god-damn twentieth century affectations. Do something new, huh? Just be new.”
Writer-director Rian Johnson does what his character preaches, crafting an original high-concept thriller that is refreshing to see in modern cinema. The premise of his latest flick Looper starts off simple. Hired hitmen kill victims sent back from the future for gold bars.
But things complicate when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sets upon his latest mission – to assassinate his older self (Bruce Willis). The character-driven story goes beyond special effects and fancy gadgets. Rather than mechanics, it takes more interest in the ever-fascinating conundrums of human morality.
There is no exposition to unravel every single knot. Rather, the revelation is artfully done. Much is shown, not told. In one such visually powerful scene, a man loses his limbs in the present, while his older self gradually dissolves into a mutilated anomaly.
The workings of which is left unexplained, leading to some headache-inducing paradoxes. But to be fair, time travel is in itself an intricate idea. Joe is right – there is no point in talking about it all day, making diagrams with straws. The non-existent technology holds a myriad questions, impossible to resolve in the scientific world today.
So, doubts about the technology are reasonably brushed off. Time travel works this way. Telekinesis exists. The audience is forced to accept the facts as it is, such that attention is driven away from physics and onto questions about humanity.
Echoing the film noir style of Brick, Johnson chooses to focus on what technicality cannot achieve. His excellent screenplay makes the emotions of his layered characters real and accessible. He has long proven to be an expert in this, with Breaking Bad‘s incredible episode Fly immediately coming to mind.
Of course, the superb writing would only be half the job done without the cast. Bruce Willis is still the believable gun-toting action hero, which works well for the tough man Joe grew up to be, though the tonal shift to blockbuster action can be jarring.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves his acting unmarred, even with the potentially distracting make-up on. While it is still tough to picture how the two actors could be one and the same, Gordon Levitt displays some convincing speech mannerisms of his co-star and at the same time, holds his own. Stealing the show is child actor Pierce Gagnon, delivering a standout performance in his pivotal role.
Above great acting, tension and impressive twists, where Looper truly succeeds is in its genuine heart. Not only is there absolute marvel in future possibilities. Real characters deliver heartfelt sincerity in the dark thriller with a brilliant pay-off.
For those still dwelling on loopholes, here’s Rian Johnson attempting to fill the gaps.