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Looper Movie Review - -

  Reviewed by Damien Straker on October 1st, 2012
presents a film directed by Rian Johnson
Screenplay by Rian Johnson
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Jeff
Running Time: 118 minutes
Rating: MA15+
Released: September 27th 2012



In the future criminal organisations have access to time travel, which has been made illegal by the government. Since people are easily tracked, criminals have had to think of new ways to dispose of bodies. They use time travel to send back people they want killed and to have their bodies disposed. The people hired to kill them are called Loopers. If a Looper misses their target they will have only thirty years to live their life before they are killed. One of these Loopers is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who was taken away from petty crime and given a job by his boss Abe (Jeff Daniels). One day Joe is shocked to see that the person sent back to him is an older version of himself (Bruce Willis). Old Joe manages to escape but then later explains that in the future his wife is killed by the crime boss the Rainmaker. He vows that he is going to track down the Rainmaker as a child named Cid. The younger Joe discovers that Cid is being sheltered by his mother Sara (Emily Blunt) on a farm and that the boy has special powers.

Hollywood is afraid that we won't "get it". If a film is deemed too confusing, or too ambiguous, it is a failure amongst audiences. The safety net for Hollywood is therefore to reproduce previous successes, through sequels and remakes, because they're already proven with audiences and therefore bankable. It saves Hollywood from the potential embarrassment of funding something that is too risky. This ridiculously naive attitude to mainstream audiences, not only denies them the opportunity to think for themselves and to be tested against new concepts, but also restricts filmmakers from providing something truly unique. Established filmmakers, those who are profitable at the box-office, are granted more creative freedom and control, which means that their work can remain intact. Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010) and Duncan Jones's Source Code (2011), for example, escaped from the net of the studio system and were rightly labelled as the 'thinking man's blockbuster'. Looper has similar ambitions. It is written and directed by Rian Johnson, who made the post-modern noir drama Brick (2005). Johnson says he idolises the Coen brothers and isn't interested in studio projects. Although his film is overflowing with interesting ideas, both old and new, and you can admire it alone for that, there are conventional elements at play that don't allow the film to free itself from the imprint of the modern studio system. It's tense, funny and action-packed, but it could have been better.

After such an engaging and original opening scene, it's difficult not to be disappointed by much of what follows afterwards. It's a fantastic start because it catches you off guard with something entirely unexpected, providing a wonderful platform for mystery. Why then does Johnson impatiently diminish these feelings of shock and disorientation by explaining exactly what just happened and why through voice over? Were there scenes cut explaining these crucial plot points more organically? Some of the exposition is admittedly useful later in the film, as the shape of the narrative becomes tricky, but this opening is just downright lazy. It is also unusual that as original as the film's premise sounds, the creativity doesn't flow through to the character of Joe. Aside from his unique line of work, he is not a particularly interesting or unique character. His reliance on fast cars and women, as well as his decision to sell out a friend, means that there is a conventional track of progression to follow here. He shifts from heartless killing machine, to surprise, an unselfish nice guy, protector of woman and child and potential love interest. Who would have thought? Comparatively, Old Joe's narrative is at its simplest a tragic love story, which is detached and uninvolving. This brief subplot with Joe and his future wife is presented through montage, reflecting faded memories (a clever stylistic touch). But it also means that not a lot of time is spent developing their relationship, so a significant plot point is more like a minor footnote. It reminded me a lot of Cobb and Mal's relationship in Inception, but that was developed over the course of the entire film, with great dramatic results.

As conventional as some of the character development is, there are finer details in the screenplay that are small but intriguing, building up to a bigger picture of the film's universe. One of the more fascinating aspects is how impoverished the streets are in the future, which means that scavenging is a necessity for the lower class and those who have guns will use them. The way the film scans through some of these images of poverty, weapons and violence is occasionally more brutal and confronting than you might expect. That is until the last quarter where the film itself relies on these gunfights itself, opting to have Bruce Willis dual wield twin machine guns and wipe out rooms full of bad guys. The point being that as the film becomes increasingly straight forward, with its structural gimmicks and dark themes unravelled, the more it lulls. There is definitely a large dip in the amount of energy in the second half, with a lot of time spent on Sara's farm. It is here that the film also feels strangely derivative of the Terminator films, as two men from different time periods have the conflicting roles of shaping a child's future history. For many of Looper's flaws though, it is still a film of ideas. Some of them contribute to a slickly produced sci-fi story and others merely try to hide the more conventional elements of the script. There is little doubt that it's far more sophisticated and ambitious than the recent Total Recall (2012), but it's also a few steps well short of the craft and the emotional hook of Inception.


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