I love time travel. I love the concept, and I love the possibilities. I also understand one thing about time travel movies – the logic is going to break down somewhere along the way. Maybe.
I loved Brick, writer/director Rian Johnson’s feature film debut. I did not watch his next film but I was curious about Looper ever since early word came out about it. Since the film had cast Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead I was doubly sold—he does good work. Quietly.
So this is how it works, the film is set in 2044 (for the most part) and Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a looper – an assassin. Apparently time travel is invented sometime in the future but is immediately made illegal (why had no one thought of this before?) so the mob uses it for the purpose of disposing off the bodies of its enemies.
This is how it happens: the people are zapped back in time to 2044 where a looper is waiting with a steampunky gun. The looper kills the masked person, disposes off the body in a time they don’t technically exist in and goes about his merry way, having been paid in bars of silver. This includes drugs, prostitutes and all the other bad stuff that goes with being an assassin for hire.
The other reason a looper is called a Looper is because at some point he will be called upon to kill his future self. This is called ‘closing the loop’, involves a big payday (in gold bars) for the looper, and he is freed from his contract. So that he can go ahead and live the next thirty years of his life the way he chooses. Problem is, when Joe is faced with his older self, he does not manage to close the loop.
This, as we’ve learnt earlier, can be very bad.
You with me so far? Doesn’t matter if you’re not. Because this is a movie you’ve got to see. Hollywood movies, especially those with little meat on their bones, have become habituated with over-sharing. Everything you need to know about the movie is right there in the trailer. So much so, that you don’t even need to go watch the movie. This is definitely not the case with Looper.
Mr. Johnson has left an entire storyline off the trailers. He’s also held back information about Joe. So when we actually watch the movie we’re seeing something fresh, untainted by trailer-blab.
Looper does not coach the viewer, it tells us about the concept, the broad ideas and then it takes the science out of the way and proceeds to tells us a story set in this universe. Which makes it orders of magnitude more satisfying than Inception.
The performances are top notch, Mr. Gordon-Levitt is excellent (even with the face designed to more resemble Mr. Willis’s) as is Ms. Blunt. She plays the part of the reformed single mother with genuine strength and steely resolve and one of the best scenes in the film for me is when she summons Joe back into the house to take care of a very specific problem. Yup, Sara is all woman.
I also think young Pierce Gagnon deserves an Academy Award nomination (at the very least) for his confident portrayal of Cid.
I had minor issues with pacing during Old Joe’s hunt for the Rainmaker (you’ll understand what I mean when you’ve seen the movie) but that ending is gut-wrenching and appropriate on so many levels. This is a movie in which the lead character undergoes a genuine transformation. And I moderated an internal debate about the value of one life over the other and decided that Mr. Johnson made the right choice.
This is masterful filmmaking. I can’t wait to watch it again.