Friday, October 5, 2012
A Vision of the Future, Not a Dream
Looper (2012) / US / In cinemas now / Written and Directed By Rian Johnson / Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Pierce Gagnon / 118 minutes
I could start off by giving you the speech about how we live in a sucky world where all the films are adaptations, remakes, comic book films, sequels etc. And then I could tell you about how Rian Johnson created an original film called Looper and low and behold, we can all restore our faith in cinema. Yes, yay for Rian Johnson. He did us proud. But isn't the kind of movie that should be restoring our faith in cinema by itself. It just proves to us that true cinema isn't dead, and there's still room for innovation.
Looper is set mostly in 2044, where time travel hasn't been invented yet. However, 30 years in the future, time travel has been outlawed, and is used by crime bosses. In their time, it is extremely difficult to dispose of bodies secretly, so they transport the bodies back to 2044 where specialised assassins called "loopers" kill and dispose of the bodies. However, the loopers themselves can be sent back to 2044, and then they kill the old version of themselves - "closing the loop" - thus ending their contract. So when Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is sent to kill the older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis), things should be pretty simple for Joe to kill him and live free for the rest of his life. However, the older Joe seems to be quite troublesome, and has come back to 2044 with his own agenda.
The most surprising thing about Looper is that it is far more complex than I thought it would be. This isn't your standard time travel flick - it delves into a world fleshed out with telekinesis, revenge and an ultimate moral question which involves a little kid. From the very beginning, we have a voice over from Joe that hints at all of these different things, but doesn't leave you expecting them. There's a lot going on in this film, which is contrasted with its quite smooth pace. It isn't exactly an adrenaline rush movie, but one that gives you time to process things and be truly immersed in the world it has created. However, at the same time, it is constantly feeding us with these new ideas. And I admit there were a few times I was thinking to myself, "well that escalated quickly." Maybe Rian Johnson was being a tad too creative, but then again, he's proving that creativity isn't dead.
Another thing that was most surprising about Looper was the fact that it takes ideas from other time travel movies, but doesn't mold itself into that same cookie cutter. As a vision of the future, it doesn't just assume we're headed for humans and buildings flying around. Yes, there are screens that pop up anywhere and the phones are tiny and transparent. I think we can give Apple until 2044 and we'll be in that exact same future. It is unlikely that Apple can conjure up time travel for us, but in the movie, it seems like a perfectly natural thing. That's because it isn't dressed up with overly kinetic sequences. This is very much Rian Johnson's vision of the future, complete with financial unrest, desperation and cheap digs at trying to save our planet (i.e. those 'solar-powered' cars). Looper is a vision of the future, as opposed to a dream of the future. And it isn't presented in a high-tech sort of way. It is presented like an independent film, which I just adored.
A high-tech addition to the film, though, is the make-up that makes Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like he'd grow into Bruce Willis. I personally didn't have a problem with it, but then again, I was in it for Joseph's performance. Along with The Dark Knight Rises and Premium Rush, 2012 has proved that he is a formidable action star, but also one with substance. And he's also extremely badass in this. Bruce Willis, solidified as a formidable action star years ago, gives a great performance, which is quite subtle in comparison to his other action characters in the past. It is also really nice to see him in a decent film for the first time in ages. Emily Blunt enters the film quite late, but she brings a lot of heart and vulnerability to the film, and surprisingly doesn't fall into the trap of being there just because it would be a crime to not have a female in the film. While she's not wasted, a whole film with her being badass wouldn't go amiss. Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano and Piper Perabo all give their small parts substance, but the star of the show is young Pierce Gagnon, who plays Emily Blunt's son Cid. As I've said countless times before, being a child actor is an extremely hard game because kids don't have the ready intelligence and stamina to sustain a role. But this guy, given a tough role, gives the film its stunning moral complexity, heart and truth. I was blown away by what he could do at such a young age.
It is hard to say how well this movie will do in the future, but at least we know that any crap sci-fi movies made in the future could be sent back to 2012 and killed by this one. Okay, that was a dry joke, but seriously, if you ever need a reminder that cinema isn't dead, then look no further than Looper.
What I got: