Plot: In the year 2072, time travel has been invented, but it soon becomes outlawed. The Mob uses it illegally to transport people back 30 years, where specialized assassins called ‘Loopers’ make the clean kill. When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a very successful Looper, has to kill his future self (Bruce Willis) and fails, it puts both Joes in great danger.
Whether it’s Star Wars, the Terminator, or Inception, sci-fi is the one genre that when done right, creates an instant classic. Looper has now joined those ranks. Especially when you can make time travel work, that’s a bonus. But just like with the films I mentioned before, it’s not the bad ass sci-fi action that makes these movies legendary – it’s the story and character development. Looper delivers this in spades. I care about Joe not because he’s good with a gun (which he is), but I’m emotionally invested in him due to a great character arc.
The first act gives us a simple run of the mill cool movie. The acting is great all around, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is starting to become one of my favorite working actors. This guy is a total drugged out douchebag, yet I still found him charismatic, and was more than happy to go with this guy as the protagonist. Jeff Daniels was also a treat as Joe’s mob boss employer Abe. He’s that quiet calm scary mob boss who wants to be your best friend. Daniels plays it very friendly, but gives you just enough of that ‘evil twinge’ to know that this is a guy you don’t want to fuck with. One of my biggest criticisms is that I wish there was more of him. It’s a stylish first act where the rules and exposition are efficiently explained. But it’s not until Bruce Willis comes into the picture as future Joe where the movie takes a drastic turn and becomes something much more.
The big turning point of the movie is where these guys finally hash it out at a simple diner. It’s a phenomenally written scene, both tense and exhausting. As the two start talking about time travel, and what future Joe coming back could potentially mean, you can see the pain and headache Willis gets when talking about it, so much so that he doesn’t want to get into the perils of time travel. Willis plays this so well, I even got a headache myself watching it. Levitt is also fantastic in this scene, as this is the moment that really draws a line in the sand of what these guys both want. And without giving too much away, what’s so fascinating to me is that you’ll end up siding with one of the Joes at the end of this scene, but as the film plays out, these guys almost have reverse character arcs, and watching this take place is both heartwarming and repulsive at the same time. But I’m not going to dare say anything else.
The two Joes aren’t the only strong characters though. Towards the middle of the film, a child named Cid is introduced, and let’s just say he plays a critical part in the movie. He’s played by Pierce Gagnon, and it’s an intense performance. Gagnon is awesome, albeit a little over the top at times, but I think he’s supposed to be.
The other two characters of note are Kid Blue (Noah Segan) and Sara (Emily Blunt). Kid Blue is basically the comic relief. He’s a mafia screw up, and while he is legitimately funny and well played by Segan, his character got a little too much play towards the end. The movie made it seem like he was bigger then what was portrayed at the beginning. Blunt is solid as Sara, the female lead of the film. And while I enjoyed Blunt’s character, present day Joe spends a lot of time with her in the middle of the film, and this is where the movie sort of drags. There’s some well written dialogue, but it’s fairly slow, and a little yawn inducing mid-way through the second act.
But as much as the second act drags, the third act more than makes up for it. The last 10-15 minutes especially are absolutely pulse pounding. This is where it’s okay to use the cliché ‘I was on the edge of my seat.’ I have to give credit to writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, the Brother’s Bloom), because his script was brilliant all the way through, and the end was a perfect resolution.
It’s hard to talk about this film without spoiling it. Looper has everything that makes movies great: story, character development, acting, tension, and last but not least, great direction. Rian Johnson is someone who will absolutely move up the lists of today’s great directors. Especially when you’re dealing with sci-fi, the potential for screwing up is pretty damn high. But everything in Looper is explained very well, and with very little exposition, whereas something like Green Lantern is nothing but exposition, exposition, exposition, exposition, ‘we don’t trust the audience to figure it out,’ and did I mention more exposition? The only scene that was sort of confusing was an alternate version of one of the bigger moments of the film, but I won’t say anything more. Other than time travel, they also use another overdone sci-fi trope, but they use it so well, I didn’t mind, even if it did seem a little shoe-horned in. Bottom-line: This movie kicks ass, and easily one of the best films of the year.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (OMG)