Film Review: ‘Looper’
Looper, one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, was released in theaters last weekend, and while it didn’t win at the weekend box office – losing out to Hotel Transylvania – the movie has managed to receive one of the more difficult accolades in the film world: well deserved critical acclaim.
First, a little bit about the story …
In the future, time travel will not only exist, it will be outlawed, used only by the most secret of criminal organizations. These criminals use Loopers, assassins living in the past (2045 or so), to kill their enemies without leaving any trace, by kidnapping them, and sending them back in time. If that Looper is still alive in 30 years, they become the target, getting sent back and killed by, well, their younger selves (apparently, that’s called “closing the loop”). Looper follows one of these assassins, Joe, who is rather content spending his days killing men, collecting silver, and doing drugs. That is, until the day his loop shows up and escapes before he can kill him. Now he has to hunt his future self down, kill him, and hope his bosses forgive his transgression, or risk a fate worse than death.
Fans of science fiction have grown pretty accustomed to time travel stories. They pop up in movies every few years to screw with our heads, and are frequently the topic of science fiction television shows. They’re widely debated, usually very contested for their “scientific inaccuracies” – though how you can cite science on something that science cannot explain, and for the most part disproves is beyond me – and they tend to be ignored by all but the most dedicated fans (because time travel is confusing, and sometimes the films really do just suck). Regardless of the film or episode in question, many fans will probably agree that where these stories tend to fall apart is in the explanation. In trying to explain what is, essentially, an inexplicable topic.
Looper‘s greatest triumph may actually lie in the fact that it makes a point of not explaining it. When both Joes are finally face-to-face, the elder Joe comes right out and says that he isn’t going to have a conversation about time travel, because it is confusing and it won’t accomplish anything. For Looper, time travel is not the point, it is only the mechanism. In not explaining the science, they essentially take away all ability of the audience to contradict what they are saying. For all you know, they have indeed found a way around the paradox that is created when you cross your own timeline, but they aren’t letting you in on the secret. You just have to go along for the ride.
But the film’s attributes don’t stop there. It has an all-star cast including the always wonderful Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis, and a Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the most challenging, and easily the most dynamic, role of his career. Gordon-Levitt is, without a doubt, the one who shines most in this film, as his portrayal of a young Bruce Willis leaves him utterly unrecognizable from his other two roles this summer season, and that is a high compliment. The biggest surprise, however, is the performance we get from the youngest member of the cast. Pierce Gagnon, who plays the son of Blunt’s character, makes the 5-year-old Cid one of the most fun, and one of the most terrifying, characters in the entire piece (and he’s up against people who maim, torture, and kill for a living).
Last but not least, of course, is the script, which was penned by Rian Johnson (also the film’s director). Johnson’s script manages to walk the line between noir-esque scifi action, and philosophical introspection in a way that is honest, raw, and altogether stunning. Not one line of dialogue (or monologue) is wasted, as everything that happens has a reason, informing the rest of the film, or shaping the characters into full and interesting people. There is no good or bad, there is only truth and fate and desperation.
Looper does what many major releases wish they could. It not only tells a story, but it forces the audience to sympathize with everyone involved: the terrified child, his desperate mother, the old man who thinks only of his love, and the young man who thinks of nothing but himself. It has layers that force you to discuss who was right, who was wrong, and whether we have any control over our own future whatsoever.
Overall rating: 9/10