Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels and Pierce Gagnon
Review Written By: Michael Dalton
Looper is nowhere near as confusing as it has the potential to be. With a, to quote Doctor Who, “timey-wimey” plot and a script that is full to the brim with ideas (Did I mention that 10% of the population has telekinesis?) this could have easily been an indecipherable mess. However in what is only his third feature, Rian Johnson has delivered a polished product that deserves to stand alongside the likes of Inception, District 9 and Moon as one of the modern science-fiction classics. This is a film that creates a tangible and believable futuristic world, with there being a palpable sense of not just a world beyond the frame but a world you want to explore. Visually this is one of the most inventive and stylish films of the year. Rian Johnson is the director who managed to take an episode of Breaking Bad which takes place in one location, focused on a fly, and make it one of the most visually inventive and memorable episodes of the show. Imagine the fun that he and subsequently we get up to, in the big-budget, science-fiction realm.
There are montages and scenes within this film that could stand on there own two feet as short films. They also brilliantly move the story forward in an exciting, economical, yet also truly cinematic way, with a certain montage managing to tell the story of an entire life, with no dialogue.
However the substance of Looper is just as commendable as its style. Johnson’s screenplay here is one that is full of nuances, set-ups and payoffs. Each character is developed fully and despite a huge (And thankfully in the trailers unspoiled) shift in the film’s narrative focus, the structure and tone is not at all contradictory or jarring. The dialogue is intelligent and witty, with the film boasting a funny line that could only be said in a film of its kind, “I’m from the future, you should go to China” it may also be the only film, or at least the only film that I have seen, where telekinesis is referred to as tacky. The film has some elements, which are rather blunt, brutal and bonkers for a film of its stature yet refreshingly and excitingly so. There are events in this film, which if you really break down what exactly has just happened, you’re surprised people (Meaning, studio executives) didn’t talk the filmmakers out of it. However despite the film venturing into crazy territory, it never feels at any point that it is desperate or overdoing anything. Despite a plot that suggests things could go completely out of hand at any second, you get the sense that under the direction of Rian Johnson, this is a very controlled film.
The first half of the film has a Goodfellas esque pacing and attitude, with the film then completely slowing down and changing gears for its second half. The film moves into much more personal, emotional and character driven as well as horror inflicted territory. Essentially you subtract Goodfellas and add (A slightly tamer and more philosophical) The Omen to the Looper equation. This is where the film will prove most divisive. So many films nowadays feel the need to escalate upwards and end on the craziest and loudest note possible. However Looper takes the opposite approach. Its craziest and loudest elements come in the first act, with it slowing down and getting more and more personal in its second and third acts. Some may find this underwhelming, as they are essentially not getting the movie that they expected. However, if you adjust your expectations to what the film is now offering you, it is just as effective if not more effective in portraying it as what it was handling before. Some will say the film gets better and more substantial, others will say it gets worse and more boring. I am in the camp of the former, believing that the latter will most likely consist of my generation who are not used to a film of this sort going to the places and concluding the way it does.
In regards to the performances, Joseph Gordon-Levitt shows what a dependable leading man he is. With this and his role as John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises he plays two characters that start at very different places, yet whether it be literally or metaphorically come to a similar destination. Bruce Willis has some classic Bruce Willis action moments, yet gets to display some emotional gravitas that I wished had been explored a tiny bit more. The scenes between Willis and Levitt are fantastic and, in my mind rightfully, short lived. Emily Blunt is perhaps the biggest surprise here, with her giving what is my favourite performance of hers to date. Paul Dano gets to do his crazy Paul Dano supporting performance, while Jeff Daniels is miles away from his character of Will Mcavoy in (the great) The Newsroom, as Abe. However a big mention must go to Pierce Gagnon, a child actor who arguably plays the film’s most important character. Child acting is something that is so hard to get right, however Gagnon is incredibly natural and believable.
Overall, Looper is stylish, intelligent, witty and emotional. It is a movie that any lover of film and particularly a lover of the science-fiction genre will find incredibly exciting. Its tonal and narrative shift will prove divisive (I understand both sides, yet ultimately agree with one) with its ending lacking the darkness, grandness or ambiguity that some may have come to expect from such films. Some are bound to discover dents in the film’s time travel logic and loudly let everybody know (Although I am yet to find a legitimate one myself) I personally would have liked to see more from Willis and am not sure about the final shot, however these are minor gripes in what is a fantastic film.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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