Looper Review

There is an exciting trend developing. It is not easy to determine its origins but Looper is a prime example of it. This is that the film is very much a smart science-fiction film that is also a fast and exhilarating action movie. Films such as Moon and Another Earth have proven there is room for a quiet and meditative style but since Inception blew the minds of cinema goers as well as the success of Source Code, intelligent sci-fi actioners are becoming more and more prevalent. Looper is another accomplishment along these lines and also serves as a breakout for director Rian Johnson and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Levitt has worked with Johnson before on Brick and since has gone on to make a name for himself in (500) Days of Summer, Inception, 50-50 and The Dark Knight Rises but he has reignited a partnership formed in 2005 to design his big break. The lead role for Looper was written with Levitt in mind but he takes on a strange Tin-Tinesque (Tin-Tin after a few years of constant drug use and killing) prosthesis to morph the star to resemble something more akin to Bruce Willis, who plays the same character 30 years on.

The story begins in Kansas, year 2044. In a very Phillip K. Dick scenario there are assassins known as Loopers who dispose of people sent back to them from another 30 years in the future. Levitt is Joe, a Looper, who works for crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels). Joe’s existence is fairly mundane. A repetitive job of waiting in front of a tarpaulin in a field before executing, with the use of his tatty looking blunderbuss, whoever appears on said tarp, is followed by a night of drug use and excess before passing out in his studio apartment, repeat the cycle in the morning. The only difference between Joe and the other loopers is that he sees another future for himself, saving some of the money he makes from each hit and learning French to engineer his dream move to the France when his loop is closed.

Closing a loop, is a term used when the mob in the future send back the future version of a looper for him to dispatch thus ending his life in exactly 30 years, erasing any ties they had with him. As more and more loops begin to get closed by a future tyrant known only as ‘The Rainmaker’, the loopers begin to get nervous. As Joe’s friend Seth (a typically brilliant Paul Dano) has his loop closed Joe begins to realise his time is coming. Surely enough it is not long before he recognises his own face (Bruce Willis) on the tarp in front of him but Future Joe is ready and manages to escape with the intent of wiping out ‘The Rainmaker’ in the past, while he is still a child. Joe must decide whether to aid his future self or to end him.

Looper begins superbly, an entrancing Dickian future that is not so far from our own as to alienate our understanding but advanced enough to intrigue and excite. It is a dystopian future of steely men with itchy trigger fingers. Lavish and dirty, the first half is set in a large city before moving to the blue skied, clean countryside. The latter setting doesn’t quite match the first and means the film loses

JGL looking very Tin-Tin

some of its imposing feel in the second half but there is still plenty time for cowboy style gunfights.

Johnson shows a variance of talent by having Bruce Willis shoot lots of people but in an entirely new way. Johnson’s camera seems fixed in position, panning on an axis back and forward to watch the action, ensuring that the continuous bang-banging doesn’t become weary. He sets up an almost Heat style conversation between Levitt and Willis, although not quite as brilliant, it is an impeccably memorable moment. Later in the film as Willis chases the child ‘Rainmaker’ Johnson riffs on some classics. The entire sequence is very T2: Judgement Day while splattering the child’s face with blood is straight out of Brian De Palma’s Carrie.

Emily Blunt as Sara, 'The Rainmaker's mother

As well as Looper sees Johnson flexing his action and filmic muscles, the screenplay he has written is tight and inventive. The use of time travel allows for the pondering of existence and the ethics surrounding choices and much like Inception the film asks questions. Being able to enjoy a film as an entertainment spectacle but to create discussion points in retrospect in an essential component of this new breed of modern sci-fi and Looper is no exception. Electric paced action but pensive enough to allow for the more introspective issues to linger on screen, Joe’s journey is subtle and ends in spending realisation. Undoubtedly one of the best action films of the year, but there is just a little more than meets the eye.



Follow Jonny on Twitter @joffglen

Thanks to the Cameo Picturehouse for press access 

About The Author

Jonathan went back to university to study Film Journalism in Glasgow in 2012 and hasn't looked back since. Writing for the Edinburgh Internation Film Festival, The Birmingham Review, The Electrolyte Magazine as well as Front Row Reviews he enjoys working across media and if not lambasting folk about politics it's film on his agenda. Working in The Electric Cinema in Birmingham has allowed him to come closer to the medium he loves, his favourite filmmaker is Wong Kar-Wai.

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