Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: "Looper"

So I usually try to get my reviews out as quickly as possible after having seen a movie.  The reason, of course, is that these things are time sensitive, you want to see the movie NOW so you'll want to know whether it's any good.  I get it.  But in the case of Looper is toes such a fine line that I needed some time to germinate before making a decision.  And that may be a good thing...

There have been enough movies about time travel at this point for us all to be at least vaguely familiar with the concept.  Some of us, after too many viewings of Back to the Future, believe ourselves to be experts.  The fundamental problem with this kind of film is that they set themselves up to be questioned.  If time travel is possible then our hero dying doesn't necessarily mean the end.  Maybe someone goes back and saves him, or maybe there's something happening RIGHT NOW in the past that means he'll never make it to the death that we're watching right now.  This means, that through the natural course of the film, you spend so much time focused on what can or can't happen that you miss a lot of the best moments.  I can say that while Looper certainly didn't entirely avoid this trap, they did play with that expectation a little to soften the blow.  In some cases quite cleverly.

So what's the premise for those who're just coming to the party?  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe Simmons, a "looper" for the mob.  It's 2074 and after the US suffered economic ruin 30 years earlier, the mobs have taken over the country.  "Loopers" are used to kill for the mob of the future by shooting captives who have been sent back in time, since it's impossible to dispose of a body in the future.  The job is a heavy one but doesn't come without its perks.  Addicted to drugs, and a heavy partying lifestyle, Joe doesn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about his lot in life until someone from the future starts, "closing the loops."  I won't get into too much more detail than that as it will sort of ruin the movie but the film is also quite good at explaining, using a gravely voice over by Gordon-Levitt to bring you up to speed.

As anyone who's seen the trailer by now knows, Bruce Willis is playing the older version of Gordon-Levitt's character, Joe Simmons from 30 years in the future.  While the character and role are perfectly suited for both men, I really wish there hadn't been so much premium placed on G-L looking like a younger Willis.  Unfortunately while this would have worked for a less well known actor, the effect on a face that I'm very familiar with is odd and disconcerting.  I spent a good deal of the movie trying to sort out what aspects of the look were makeup and what was Gordon-Levitt's own acting that it completely took away from what they were trying to do.  I feel as though it would have worked much better had they simply let Gordon-Levitt play the part and left the makeup aside.

Emily Blunt also stars in this film and she shows up as the midwest mama of a small child who ends up in the bath of both Willis' and Gordon-Levitt's characters.  While there wasn't much to her character I thought she did quite a good job of making her likeable and tough without being all one or the other.  It's often difficult for the female character in an action movie to be more than one thing so I'm impressed with her ability to be strong without having to be anything other than female.  That said, the kid MADE the movie.  Little Pierce Gagnon was absolutely incredible, in the vein of that kid from the Shinning it was absolutely fantastic.  He too was able to toe the line between disturbing and sympathetic and some kudos should be given to director Rian Johnson for his ability to properly guide the balancing of these two characters.  Without it, the film simply could not have been what it was.

It's a bit of a slow burn, interspersed with extreme violence but ultimately I quite enjoyed Looper.  Could it have been better?  Probably.  Are there time travel loopholes?  Most definitely.  Does any of it matter?  Not really.  I felt upon closer inspection that the film did exactly what I wanted and while one or two things could have made it stronger, it was certainly a good ride.

My rating: 3 out of 4

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