'Looper' (2012) Movie Review

With Looper, Rian Johnson establishes himself as a director we are going to be talking about a lot in the future. With Brick and Brothers Bloom, Johnson built a following. He was part of the conversation, but with Looper he has opened the floodgates, delivering a movie far bigger than its science fiction-driven plot suggests. While it is a time travel movie with mafia hitmen, bad guys galore, gunfire and historical consequences at stake, it's also a film that looks at where our society is today with a focus on "the little ones" in terms of where we may end up if we don't get things right. There are some logic problems and some details are skirted, but overall it's a highly effective and exhilarating film.

Grade: B+

Looper"Looper" is a TriStar Pictures release, directed by Rian Johnson and is rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.

The cast includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Noah Segan and Pierce Gagnon.

For more information on this film including pictures, trailers and a detailed synopsis click here.

Set in the year 2044, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe. Joe is an assassin, or as the film refers to him, a Looper. We are told, in the future, time travel was invented but quickly outlawed. The mafia, however, got their hands on the technology and now, instead of killing people in the present day, they send them 30 years into the past to be disposed of, accompanied by a few bars of silver for services rendered. The people doing the killing are the Loopers, but there is also a caveat... Loopers can be just as expendable as the people they are killing.

When the mafia decides a Looper's time is up a decision is made to "close the loop". Head covered and hands tied behind their backs, a Looper's future self is sent back in time, executed and it's only when the executioner goes to collect his payment do they realize they just killed themselves and now have 30 more years to live. This, as it turns out, is a key factor to the story, but if you also begin to dissect the reasoning behind it all it's where the plot begins to fall apart.

It's up to you to decide if these narrative plot holes are going to ruin the movie for you, because I have to admit, things don't necessarily add up. Thankfully, I was able to become invested enough in the story that the time travel aspect, which becomes secondary to the larger narrative, didn't weigh too heavily on my opinion.

The story finds its foothold after introducing Joe's lifestyle -- he's lonely, addicted to drugs and saving up to retire in France -- and building to the point where he must decide if he's going to pull the trigger and kill the man he has become. It's some pretty raw material and the film isn't shy in how it's dealt with.

Johnson doesn't hold back when it comes to the film's violence and it works on two levels. The first is the overall raw intensity it brings to the picture. The sound mix is sure to let the audience know a bullet has been fired and the visual splatter of blood and gore isn't limited. However, this also serves to desensitize the audience for what is to come -- a story about our world's youth -- the corruption, bloodshed, what it all leads to and the way it will shape our future leaders. As an audience looking to be entertained, we revel in the action on screen, but there also comes a point where you realize such matters can have dramatic, real world consequences.

Gordon-Levitt, eyebrows darkened and his eyes popping off the screen against the bright blue sky in the background, is outstanding as the film's lead. He's altered his voice just a touch and given a perfect amount of makeup, creating a larger resemblance to the man playing his 30 years-his-elder self -- Bruce Willis. For that matter, Gordon-Levitt has Willis' mannerisms nailed, especially in the brief moments when he recognizes the man sitting before him, intended to be executed.

The notion of a character meeting his future self has been explored in films before, but instead of focusing on potential breaks in the space-time continuum, Johnson allows the audience to comprehend the idea of what it would actually be like to sit across from yourself over steak and eggs. While the plot may not entirely hold up, it's moments like this that add more than enough depth to the story to help you overlook any space-time concerns.

I don't want to go too far into the plot so as to say what role Emily Blunt plays, but suffice to say she's her usual, extraordinary self. I would also suggest you keep an eye out for the excellent performance given by a young actor named Pierce Gagnon who plays Cid, a character I absolutely didn't see coming and one that elevates the story above just being another time travel pic and one that explores much deeper themes.

As much as I enjoyed the film, I can't overlook certain issues. The whole "closing the loop" aspect presents concerns as I'm not entirely sure it all adds up or why a Looper would simply resign to the idea of dying 30 years later. I also had some trouble with the ambiguous world in which the film takes place.

Johnson's future isn't all glass structures and tight rubber outfits. It's very much like the world is today, there are hover bikes, but the cars that are left mainly run on solar energy and we're not all driving around in the sky. The budget was clearly limiting in just how far he could take things and there are moments where the lack of money for effects is quite evident. But this isn't the complaint, I was mainly bothered by the lack of explanation for the state of things. Things are obviously bad in nondescript Kansas city where the film takes place. The city is run by a corrupt boss man (Jeff Daniels) who owns the police, runs the Loopers and has his own gang of "Gat-men", but what else is going on?

Certainly this is a minor complaint seeing how the focus of the story is more intimate than an attempt to draw attention to the global state of affairs, but it would have added one more layer and created a clearer idea of just what kind of future Joe and those he gets involved with are hoping to be a part of.

Overall, any and all nitpicks aside, Johnson has crafted a film that will both entertain and enlighten. It's a science fiction movie that focuses less on gadgetry and more on ideas. To that point, it's the best kind of story. The score from Nathan Johnson is both overwhelming and reserved and, when necessary, Johnson drops all the sound out as he knows exactly how to steer the audience's attention.

I wholeheartedly recommend Looper, a film sure to become a favorite for many sci-fi fans and hopefully one that encourages studios to give Rian Johnson continued to support to bring his future cinematic visions to life on the big screen.