Directed and Written by Rian Johnson
I love action films; the cheesier the better. Obviously much depth cannot be gleaned on the whole from those sorts of movies, but I enjoy them because they are cheap, nonsensical thrills. The bulk of my childhood was in the 90‘s, and Stallone and Schwarzenegger were in their prime; action movies were in abundance. Action movies, nowadays, have evolved slightly, but the same nonsensical eye candy is still prevalent…it’s just flashier.
Personally I expected “Looper” to fit this bill–a flashy, new age action flick with little depth, but a great ride regardless of the stigma. However, I was pleasantly surprised by its depth, wit, and stunning cinematography–it was better for it, and by the end of the film I was better for it.
Essentially, the film follows Joe. He is a Looper in the year 2044. He explains to the audience that thirty-years from his present, time travel will be made possible with the invention of a time machine. The device will be instantly outlawed by the government, but organized crime syndicates will get a hold of it and use it as means to kill off anyone they want. In the 2070s everyone is easily tracked, and it is impossible to ‘whack’ someone and get away with it. However, with the use of a time machine the mob can send back their enemies and have them executed and disposed of in 2044 without anyone the wiser in their own time.
This is where the Loopers come in.
The Loopers are hired hitmen. They wait at a predetermined location at a specific time everyday, and when their mark pops into existence (from the future) they immediately kill them and dispose of the body. The body is always laden with silver, which the Looper can then trade for cash and other goods. For the most part it is a a fairly easy gig, except it has one immense drawback: If the Looper is still alive thirty-years in the future the mob will eventually round them up there, send them back, and have their past selves “Close their loop.” Essentially, they assassinate themselves. They get a huge paycheck, they celebrate, get released from their contract, and they have a guaranteed thirty-years of life, but they are the device of their own demise.
This is where the main conflict arises for Joe. His future self is not on the same page as him, and this results in some…let us say, ‘issues.’ The film unfolds from this complication in a flurry of mob secrets, time loops, telekinetic powers, and bloodshed–all resulting in a unique science fiction film that is more than what it seems. I found the plot to be ingenious. The time paradox is explained relatively simply through the cinematography, rather than complex exposition. It cuts away at the precise moment and explains the timelines succinctly and without ambiguity. Besides using the cinematography to explain the multiple timelines and loops, Director Rian Johnson also creates some truly beautiful scenes. Whether the shots are action sequences or drug trips the scenes represent a type of creative cohesiveness not seen in film terribly often.
The acting is top notch as well. Even with a facial prosthesis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to capture many of the mannerisms in speech and gestures that Bruce Willis is know for. This creates a sub-realm of believability that adds credence to the plot. Two actors playing the same character could easily go awry, but in this instance it worked superbly. However, I think that it is a rare occurrence and could only be achieved with a certain caliber of actor. Paul Dano plays a fellow Looper and has unfortunately fallen into the whiney, screw-up character that he always seems to play. For granted he is good at it, but I would love it if he played a character outside his abilities. I am hoping that it is a typecast issue and not of his own doing, but after his role in “Cowboys vs. Aliens” and now this film I am a bit worn out. Jeff Daniel’s role of the mob boss sent from the future (Abe) completely threw me off guard. I haven’t seen him in ages, but he manages to fill the role perfectly. I honestly forgot how much I missed him! And, finally a special mention to Garret Dillahunt. He is a personal favorite of mine. I love him from the television show, “Raising Hope,” and I am excited to him in a large-scale, feature film. I am crossing my fingers that this indicates a blossoming career on the big screen.
Besides the stellar lineup of actors I also noticed a fairly deep and blatant allusion to the story of Judas. Small facets of the allusion include that the Loopers are paid in silver and that a near mystical individual singlehandedly unites all the crime syndicates in the future. Once you get to the ending the story comes full circle–fully realizing the Biblical parallels.
Overall, I found “Looper” to be a layered and powerful film. It touches on numerous topics including child murder, addiction, and time travel while staying grounded under the guise of science fiction and the traditional action movie archetype. “Looper” is a truly splendid film that should be enjoyed and watched repeatedly. At the end of the day, it may not be the happiest of films, but it is a profound one.
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