It’s been a long time in coming that I actually enjoy a sci-fi movie. So you’ll have to excuse my little love letter to Looper here. The new sci-fi action movie starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt is about a pitch perfect as I’ve seen in a long time. Get your money out and run to the theater now. We have the next cult classic on our hands.
It would be deceptively simple to say this is a movie about time travel, or an action movie about a future self verses a younger, past self. The story is so surprisingly layered I hesitate to lay it out here. I will try. Joe, (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a “looper”, kills men from the future that the mob wants to get rid of. Through time travel, the mark is sent back, Joe gives them a blast to the chest with a “blunderbuss” and they’re disposed of. Done. That is the content of Joe’s life. Only when he’s confronted with his future self to kill, called “closing the loop” do things start to go a bit haywire. That’s the simple version of the story. The complex one would mean me reciting the plot frame by frame and it involves an Akira-like telekinetic child, a desperate man out to save the woman who made him whole, a mother protecting her child, and a good old dirty crime story. All are elements to this surprisingly packed action movie.
Director/writer Rian Johnson is probably best known for Brothers Bloom with Adrian Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz. Nothing about that movie would prepare you for Looper. It is an absolute must-watch-twice movie. It’s sometimes dense, sometimes straight action. I particularly fell in love with Bruce Willis (Joe-from-the-future) smashing Joe-from-the-past’s face into a diner table after kicking him in the unmentionables. People were out and out laughing during that scene. This was a perfect theater movie for just that reason. The audience was totally sucked in. People applauded at the end if that’s any indication.
All right, so what does it really have going for it? Well, the cinematography was ambitious. There were shots and camera angles I had never seem before. The pacing didn’t pander and neither did the plot points. At the same time I was given tired sci-fi tropes and allowed to see them in a new light. The drugged up killer is given a fresh face. He’s not all that amazing to be honest. He kills people with a gun that can’t miss who are dropped in front of him like the easiest game of Duck Hunt ever. He’s flawed. He’s greedy and he grows as a character. He’s fighting his future self! What more do you need to know?! Well, just that the acting was amazing. Even lesser character, Jeff Daniels as a mob boss from the future is pitch perfect. Bruce Willis is getting old but man do I love seeing him kick ass. He has depth here! Don’t forget JGL who’s rocketing to A-list fame off movies like these because he can carry an emotional arc like no one’s business. To see him transform from a vain, self-absorbed punk of a killer to someone who becomes a true hero was epic.
That’s not to say that there weren’t flaws. Though they did a good job of near perfectly matching JGL’s face to Bruce Willis’, it sometimes felt like a mask. You noticed when JGL’s pumped full of rock salt and his nostrils aren’t flaring. JGL’s lips were rouged for the entire movie for some reason. I’m putting it down to a fashion of the future time rather than a bad makeup job. Some of the visual effects were less than stellar and it was noticeable to the point it took you out of the story a bit. Watch those hover bikes. Not that pretty. You also can’t have JGL fall 2 stories, crush a car and then walk around with nary a broken rib. I call movie shenanigans.
I went in expecting a straight action flick and I would have been more than happy with just that, but Looper gave me moral complexity and an ending that left me to draw my own conclusions. I have to be purposefully vague because I can’t possible spoil the ending. Scrape together the change from your couch and go see this movie!
9 time traveling killers out of 10
4 Replies to “A New Sci-Fi Classic: Looper”
You can’t talk about acting and not mention the little boy Pierce Gagnon who plays Cid. He was phenomenal in it – he should get an Oscar
“I’m from the future. You should go to China.”
And “I did good!”
The laughs after these two lines were the biggest I’d heard in a movie in years.
And let’s not forget that Rian Johnson’s movie “Brick”, really Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s breakout role, was already a masterpiece. I had nervous hopes for this movie, after seeing what happened with Richard Kelly after Donnie Darko (Southland Tales… the hell?), but I was blown away.
Bonus points for anyone who catches all the parallels to The Terminator.
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