FILM: Looper

Certificate: 15
Running Time: 119 mins
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action, Thriller
Country: USA

Time-travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it will be.  The year - 2044, the place - Kansas, the job… waiting around in a field until organised crime-lords in 2074 send back guys that need whacked in a perfect crime, no body no problems kinda way. 
"98, 99, 100... here I come ready or not!"
This movie, upon it’s release, interested me and yet it passed me by.  Only with the arrival of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens did I decide to dig it out and give it a good going over.  Why?  Director Rian Johnson, that’s why.  The man behind Brick and The Brothers Broom has been handed the keys to Episode VIII and with Looper being the biggest thing (outside of Breaking Bad and Terriers which were both brilliant) the man’s directed I was intrigued.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (or Jo-Go from here on in) plays Joe, a looper with one eye on his own future and the dream of making it out of the U.S. of A to France where he’ll smoke good cigarettes, eat good food and do all the things Jean-Luc Goddard promised us; but when a shadowy gangster known only as “The Rain Maker” starts closing off all the loops (sending back loopers to be killed by their younger selves) Joe’s faced with his future self (Bruce Willis) on a rampage to find and kill The Rain Maker before he becomes the big deal that he is.

At first glance this should be the Terminator for the generation who have lived through multiple disappointing incarnations of “termination”.  With young and old Joe finding themselves at odds with one-another’s ideology Looper poses some truly interesting questions about the fluidity of self identity, the state of the modern world (aka “Kids Today Syndrome”) along with posing the “Let’s Kill Hitler” paradigm and does it in such a way that isn’t preachy, hypothetical or irrelevant.
The plot of Die Hard 6 is - John McClean must stop Hollywood Execs from
making a Die Hard 6
Johnson’s script does a great job in grounding the action in a world that we, the audience, can relate to.  Sure there’s Sci-Fi tech elements in the city but the sequences in the Kansas cornfields channel the beauty of Americana.  Several of the set-pieces do a good job to demonstrate the ripple effect that is time-travel within one’s own lifetime, none more beautifully horrific than that of Paul Dano and his older self as they try to outrun what they have coming to them only for them to lose…bad… piece by piece.  For the five minutes of this glorious scene I felt as though I was a child again, watching a Twilight Zone episode I probably shouldn’t be watching while the rest of the house slept.
Is it me or has gotten lazy?
There are issues with Looper… and they can be summed up in one small sentence.  Jo-Go’s face.  I understand what director and actor are doing here.  It’s admirable that Jo-Go would go as far as to make himself virtually unrecognizable in order to play to the look of the older Joe.  You certainly wouldn’t catch Bruce Willis doing that for anyone else.  The hump-dumpy hero’s ego wouldn’t allow for his puss not to be on screen in all it’s snarling glory.  The problem with the prosthesis is that rather than draw you in closer to the character it works to break the reality of the film.  The nose, brow and colour contact lenses merely highlight the artifice that is cinema.  Rather than say “So what, Jo-Go is meant to be a young Bruce Willis?  They look fuck all alike” we have two hours to get used to seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar way.

I’ve been familiar with Jo-Go for a long time; even before 3rd Rock from the Sun.  I remember watching him play a disabled kid on Quantum Leap back in 1991 and having re-watched that episode recently it was obvious that he was always going to be a star… which is the problem.  He’s too familiar.  It’s the same when Willis wears a wig (which he does in this movie too).  The filmic reality is punctured; the brain cries “That asshole old Republican is a bald muthafucka… where’d that hair come from?”  It probably says more about me that I’m able to accept time-travel, a talking raccoon and Donald Trump is running for President before I can accept a rubber nose and some fake hair (Willis’ not Trumps, that shit can never be accepted) but the truth of the matter is that it’s jarring.

Add to that some underdeveloped telekinesis (or TK) storylines and you’ve got a film that’s at odds with itself.  Not quite a straight time-travel movie, not a super abilities movie either and with a lead actor that’s (through no fault of his own) is constantly reminding you that this is a movie and you have the first two acts setting you up for the final act to lapse into fatalistic, predictable, climax.
Insert masturbation joke as Old Joe gets a good grip of his own head
You might read this and come away with the idea that Looper is a bad movie.  It’s not.  Sorry for that impression.  Sure the nose is an issue, and Bruce Willis is probably the laziest actor ever… or the most consistent as once again he’s John McClean but Jo-Go gives a measured portrayal of a man at odds with his existence, while Emily Blunt makes a serviceable role out of not very much.  I’m not annoyed at Looper because it’s a bad movie, I’m annoyed because it could have been so much better.  It had all the elements at it’s disposal to be great but in using them wrong it created fires where there didn’t need to be fires.

What excites me is that Johnson is able to tell a complicated mystery tale against the backdrop of a Sci-Fi movie.  He has, essentially, been given this generation’s Empire Strikes Back to direct, and with so many theories, questions and criticisms of The Force Awakens out there in Internet-Land he has a mammoth job ahead of him to close off all those loops.


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