By Nathan Peterson
Starring – Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano
For regular listeners to Amigo Radio, you will know that Looper was one of the films that I have been anticipating with bated breath. Featuring an envious cast, including one of my favourite young actors in Gordon-Levitt, and receiving a very positive feedback from it’s showing at the Toronto Film Festival, all things pointed to this being a real contender for film of the year.
From some of the trailers and TV spots, you could be forgiven for not really getting what this film is about, and whilst I want to fill you in on some of the details, I think it might be better to go into this one without having too much information as it has some pretty interesting ideas that I don’t want to spoil.
Now, you may know that Looper concerns time-travel, what you might not know is that it is used by gangsters in the future to send people back in time to be killed so that they cannot be identified by the police. The assassins used are known as Loopers, and the film follows Gordon-Levitt as the youngest Looper on the books, Joe, as one of his jobs go wrong.
As I have said above, it may be better for you to not know too much going in to the film, and if that’s how you wish to keep it then stop reading and know that I am giving this a very positive review. Come back and read this after you have seen it. If however you want to know a little more, then read on!
I have said it before, but Gordon-Levitt is one of my favourite actors around, with a pretty diverse portfolio behind him. I am not sure I have ever seen him in a film and not enjoyed his performance, with Looper keeping up that tradition. He successfully manages to make a low-down assassin into a pretty likeable guy who goes through a bit of a roller-coaster and questions what is important to him. Alot has been said about the make-up applied to make him to make him look more like Willis, and whilst it was a little weird to see him looking all at once completely different but still the same as usual, it wasn’t too off-putting.
Bruce Willis plays Joe from the future, who is sent back to be killed by Gordon-Levitt so that the mobsters can cut all loose ties, and whilst there are moments that aren’t quite classic Willis, he does put in a decent turn. In fact, the only thing that I could criticise Willis’ character for is more of a writing issue than his performance. You see, whilst his actions when returning to 2044 seem to be well thought out, they all come about from a moment of impulse and it is hard to see how and why he can be so determined. That being said, this is merely something that irritated me and others may not interpret things in the same way.
Emily Blunt and Paul Dano both put in sound performances, but the real gems of this film are Jeff Daniels and Pierce Gagnon. Daniels is a great actor, and whilst I find it difficult to view him as anything but Harry from Dumb and Dumber, it is refreshing to see him in a villainous role in Looper as he plays one of the gangsters who runs the Looper network. He is exceptional as Abe, and whilst he still leans towards a likeable persona, he shows moments of real cold bloodedness.
Pierce Gagnon is not a child actor I was aware of before I watched Looper, but now he is definitely on my radar. Usually child actors are used to great effect being either a light-hearted comic relief, or as an unlikely source of horror. But here, Gagnon manages to blend both into one role, easily switching from cute, with maturity beyond his years, to a frightening vision of terrors yet to come. In fact, his Cid character is responsible for some of the best moments of action.
Rian Johnson’s vision of the future is bleak, to say the least, however he definitely has a great attention to detail. Whilst the film is set 30 years in the future, Johnson has opted against using a totally futuristic vision, with the world looking very similar to ours but with only a few touches here and there indicating that this is not our time. Also I would like to commend his use of different settings, as he flicks between an overcrowded metropolis and the surrounding fields, providing a nice contrast to the moments of action.
In fact, these contrasting settings could be a metaphor for the characters themselves. One of the things that most appeals to me about Looper is that the main characters are pretty rounded, they aren’t good, they aren’t bad, they are just doing what they can under troubled circumstances.
Take Gordon-Levitt for example, as a cold-hearted killer why is it so easy to empathise with him? Especially considering he is also a junkie and sleeps with prostitutes. Willis also plays a character that for the most part is one the viewer wants to come out on top, but at the same time he does some pretty despicable things all in the name of love. In fact, one scene shows just how far he will go to protect the people he loves, albeit it is one of the worst things anyone can do.
Every now and then a film comes along that transforms cinema. Whether it is The Matrix, with its intelligent concept and breathtaking action, or Paranormal Activity that spawns endless copycat found footage horrors, some movies are game-changers. Everything I had heard about Looper suggested that this was going to be one of those films, but for this one reviewer, whilst it is a good film it is not a great film. I would like to see it again, as it is pretty layered and there may be things I missed first time around, however it does suffer from the same issues as most time travel films, such as how the future seems to remain unaffected until the moment that it suits the story, however these should be overlooked for artistic licence.
One other negative I could throw at Looper, and one which I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoiling things, is that it tries to do too much. Whilst I appreciate that great stories need a sub plot to give them added depth, Looper almost appears to have two stories; Gordon-Levitt trying to put right his mistake, and Bruce Willis trying to deal with his “quest”. Whilst I am against cash-grabbing sequels being made, Looper is set in a deep universe and has a wealth of talent behind it that could easily have developed into a franchise. I fear though, that by trying to include everything it might have ended up being a touch too much.
I recommend seeing Looper as soon as you have the opportunity, preferably on a nice big screen so you can take in all the beautiful visuals, but take all the hype with a pinch of salt.
Rating 4 out of 5