Movie Review: Looper

Let me get straight to the point: Looper is one of, if not the smartest films of the year. It makes you want to go back in time and watch it again, and again and again, on loop. It’s not an action film, but the best time travel movie since 2004’s Primer.

Director Rian Johnson, who made a big splash in 2005 with the neo noir Brick is back with Joseph Gordon Levitt, and the two make sparks fly. A top notch cast with Bruce Willis and Jeff Daniels, saucy camerawork, loads of intrigue and a time travel backdrop – what more could you possibly want from a movie? And it’s not just the production values, Looper entertains because it is about something more than just its time travel plot. The time travel gimmick is just the backdrop for a different, more fascinating bit of mystery. And it’s got great characters to go along with the plot, which makes it all the more interesting and involving.

Getting into plot details would ruin most of the fun, the trailers gave too much away already. Looper is set in 2044 US, where telekinesis has become something of a phenomenon and time travel is on the verge of invention. Johnson introduces us to a fun dilemma – if you were a contract killer, and your next target were a future you, would you complete your assignment? As expected, the killer JGL fails to shoot the future version of his own self and gets into a boatload of trouble, inadvertently setting into motion a whole alternate timeline for the future. Incidentally Shane Carruth, the genius behind Primer worked with Johnson for this film, his exact contribution remains a mystery but the final product is gold class. Moreover, Looper was made for a tenth of the budget of most Hollywood sci fi spectacles yet Johnson manages to make it look much more handsome and classy than every one of those films. Johnson’s futuristic world isn’t a glossy Hollywood bore, it’s a slick and bleak visionary bit of imagination. Aesthetics were a big part of both Brick and The Brothers Bloom, and Johnson continues to get better and better at it.

The only big criticism of Looper is that it changes its tone far too often – one moment it’s a violent science fiction action thriller, the next is suddenly a creepy kid horror movie for teens. The tonal inconsistency is however made up by a bunch of scenes that would go down as classics in the years to come. A snazzy graphic novel style flash forward sequence that involves Bruce Willis’ inception leaves you drooling for more. Not to mention the insane amount of detailing Johnson and JGL put into the film. JGL convincingly stares, walks and raspily talks like Bruce Willis, and the prosthetics on his face actually make him look like Willis. The man is being considered as the greatest actor of this generation and deservedly so. Willis on the other hand is his usual awesome gun trotting self, and he makes one want to pull out the DVD of 12 Monkeys for a time travel double bill with Looper. Towards halfway one tends to scratch one’s head to wonder if the film would lead to a logical ending, but Johnson wraps it up nice and clean and a quietly stunning climax. Looper cost just $30 million to make, in a perfect world inhabited by clones of my own self, the film would gross a billion dollars.

(First published in MiD Day)

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