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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Looper - Review (2012)

Looper is a time travel story, starring Bruce Willis, set in the not so distant future.  

Let me guess, from that line alone you are imagining a film full of incredible futuristic devices, AI robots run amok, run-ins with historical figures or maybe a grim dystopian society where our every move is watched by an out of control, omnipotent government.  These are just a few of the film conventions that are commonly used during time travel movies, of which I am a big fan.  Although some of these conventions can be a great deal of fun they often draw the majority of the filmmaker’s focus, as an end result what’s sacrificed are intriguing characters.  

What if I told you Looper was a time travel film about regret, redemption, loss and what you will do for love?  Doesn't sound like the sci-fi the typical time travel film, does it?  And lucky for us it isn’t just another film about time travel, but rather, a film about people.  The story is complex, at times confusing but rewards you for sticking through it and applying a little extra brain power.
Looper is set in 2044, a time not much unlike our own.  Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a looper, whose job is killing people from the future, closing the loop. You see, thirty years into the future, 2074, time travel exists, but it is illegal.  The mob sends back those they need to dispose of and the looper takes them down - no questions, no talking, no chase - the target appears out of thin air, just shoot, kill and collect the bounty.  The catch, they eventually send back the older version of yourself in order to close your own loop.  This is what happens with Joe, his older self (Bruce Willis) appears but has other plans in mind.  Older Joe tries to escape, putting younger Joe’s life threatened by his bosses and the need to hunt down and kill older Joe.  The problem for younger Joe is older Joe came back with a purpose, he is not going down easily.

Director, Rian Johnson (Brick), does not get lost in the need to sell us his vision of the future.  He delivers a minimalistic version - no hi-tech futuristic skyline full of flying cars, no hoverboards or hologram assistants, there's not even a sunglass-wearing, trench coat sporting George Carlin.... instead we see a very identifiable America.  Sure, there are a few futuristic automobiles and weapons, they are countered with an almost rustic feeling version of middle America circa 1990s even though the film is set 5 years from then.  Our focus is not on gadgets and hi-tech mumble jumble, is it on allowing us to invest in the characters.  

An exclusive FilmSnork confession.  I HATE most films that use paper thin plots to string together chase/action scenes - they just aren't my thing.  There I said it.  My fear going into this film was just another exercise in just that -  action packed chase scenes, highly choreographed fights and gun battles.  That is why Looper is a breath of fresh air, the actions scenes are not the major draw of the film.  The action progresses logically from an engaging story - it is part of the story, not the other way around.

As usual, Joseph Gorden Levitt (the actor I STILL have trouble believing was the son on Third Rock from the Sun) delivers another impressive performance.  He has become one of the most reliable actors out there.  And Bruce Willis steps up his game with a couple of very emotional, gut wrenching scenes.   Round out the cast with Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt and you have a very solid cast whose performances lead to some real impactful scenes.

To get the most out of this film you cannot be a passive viewer.  You will need to be prepared not only twists, turns and mind-bending time travel concepts, but also ready to put yourself in the characters’ shoes, thinking through every ethical decision they must make.  This film does not provide all the answers, it proposes some great questions though.  And honestly, days later I am still thinking about it, flip-flopping on what I saw, what I believe and how I would handle that.  This is not your uncle’s mindless time travel film.  San Dimas High Schhool Football RULES!

8.5 out of 10 stars

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