Rian Johnson’s “Looper”, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young Bruce Willis, is a fresh science-fiction film that focuses on the feelings and emotions of its central characters, avoiding the typically contrived structures of action films.
The movie isn’t yet home free, though, considering the surplus of logistical flaws surrounding the proposed time-travel absolutes and the paradoxes they represent. The sheer impact of its ideas, however, are enough to warrant at least one viewing, if not multiple.
The story begins with an introduction to the world itself: a society where time-travel is outlawed to the general public and used only by the most sneaky and highly-skilled criminals. It’s challenging to write a sci-fi script in a way that explains the world-building details of the new society or time period while not hovering over these ideas for too long.
Director Rian Johnson hands over the expository duties to the main character, Joe, who explains the various types of lingo throughout various voice-overs. The balance between voice-over and visual context within the action is a tricky tightrope to tinker with.
The narration could have been broken down and explained organically throughout the course of the film, even though other visual storytellers prefer to pull the heady sci-fi information out of the box as soon as possible. Bring it up to the surface, let the ideas and concepts simmer and cook thinly across a film’s lengthy running-time.
The concept of “closing the loop”, where the Looper is forced to turn their blunderbuss weapon over towards their much older, future self. The character of Seth, played by the eternally-scrawny screwup, Paul Dano, introduces the audience to the “closing the loop” concept fittingly: by having to close the loop on himself.
Everything that happens to Seth seems to be foreshadowing what will happen to the younger Joe. It feels like an excess of exposition: why introduce Seth and his hasty demise when it’s the same violent end that Joe will be forced to face, sooner than later?
Despite a few questionable narrative decisions, the action is stylish and enthralling. Seeing Bruce Willis play an old man bent on revenge never gets tiresome, especially given that Willis reaches a near manic state, blood flowing down his face and neck as he shoots down a series of henchmen with a sturdy set of automatic-rifles hoisted up on his shoulders.
The performances are very effective, even Gordon-Levitt’s, whose lip and facial transformations flew past the gimmick stage and started to just feel right. For all it’s worth, Bruce Willis plays across from Gordon-Levitt with rugged but tangible chemistry. Willis pulls off a fatherly, concerned tone.
Jeff Daniels adds some spice to the ensemble cast as a rugged mob leader from the future. He’s the orchestrater for the Loopers and their time-traveling assignments.
When young Joe meets with old Joe, the screen is filled with dualism and constant provocation: we are only shown a single scene featuring the two men sitting down, having a nice, regular conversation, disappointingly so, though.
Gordon-Levitt and Willis are the two most enigmatic and engaging people in the film. Every other scene involving the two consist either of violent gun spraying or yelling/arguing about their self interests, given that they’re separated by such a massive age gap.
Emily Blunt stars as Sara, a farm-owner, whose son has mysterious and powerful abilities. The son can alter the timeline, a unique and rare gift. There are some inventive futuristic technology shown on the way, such as a pesticide droid that flies down the long rows of crops, spreading an equal amount of water across the crops.
Sara turns out to have a will and a temper of her own. Her character is brought to the forefront in the third act. There are plenty of philosophical debates that bother the characters and hold them back from moving forward. Nature vs. nurture, sacrifice yourself or save your future loved ones.
The films final ending is memorable and visually electric. It’s filled with earned, real poignancy, even if it renders everything that had came before it almost totally meaningless.
“Looper” is one of the best sci-fi noir films of the 2000s, and introduces Rian Johnson to the mainstream public as an unrestrained, creative, and inventive young filmmaker.