Good science fiction is a rarity these days. With mindless CGI spectacles and other Hollyweird distractions it’s hard to communicate a decent narrative that satisfies the brain while pleasing to the senses. Most of Hollywood builds a career out of the razzle and dazzle effects-heavy motion pictures that give audiences a minute high and comes up short on everything else. Seldom do these highly paid artisans make material worth revisiting. There are forty to fifty piles of cinematic dog crap for every Inception, Source Code, or Primer. Rain Johnson’s Looper, a time-travelling thriller, is of their similar caliber and, with its spirited search for soul in the face of technology, so very worthy of repeat viewings.
Engaging, whip-smart, and economical, Looper satisfies on many levels. Concentrate hard enough and your head, hard at work processing the many twist and turns of the plot, just might explode. Does it all make sense? Sort of, but that won’t stop you from wanting to retrace the events to make sure you’ve interpreted correctly. And, for the sweet tooth audience members only along for the ride for the candy apple spectacle, well, there’s plenty of that, too. While we can banter back and forth about whether or not the Bruce Willis lookalike prosthetics done to Jospeh Gordon-Levitt’s face actually work or not, Looper is a damn fine film that’s easily forgivable in its minor flaws.
The year is 2044. Joe (JGL) is an assassin in Kansas City. While there is no time travel, Joe informs us that the mob, thirty years into the future, will one day send back targets they need to be killed. It is Young Joe’s job to bag and tag and dispose of whatever is sent his way. And so he waits. Old Joe (Willis) is the Looper sent back for Young Joe to dispose of. The job, done successfully, closes the loop and ties up all loose ends. The killer is the victim, get it? Problems arise, of course, when Joe, young and old, both hesitate.
Johnson’s script, featuring a dystopian society and genetic mutations is, at times, a convoluted romp full of big ideas and even bigger questions. Especially because Old Joe arrives with his own agenda: kill the violent dictator known as Cid (Pierce Gagnon) before he can accomplish the evil of the future Old Joe is from. While it isn’t as smart as some hope or want it to be, Looper never flies off the rails with illogical pressure at its sharp turns. And, thankfully, Johnson doesn’t allow the script to “loop” itself out of existence with too many forward-thinking conceits. It’s precise and clever; an amazing four-leaf clover for a film that could have easily slipped into its own portal through time.
Gordon-Levitt delivers another charismatic performance and watching Willis evolve from typical baddie to an unusually misguided do-gooder is quite unexpected, if not a tad harrowing for a role that is so unsympathetic. With the performance here and in Moonrise Kingdom, Willis is on a much needed roll. Co-starring Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, and Garret Dillahunt, Looper’s visual language gets a hefty lift from an entire round of dedicated performances in a world on the verge of tottering over the point of no return.
Johnson, however, is the film’s real star. Serving as writer/director once again, Looper is his strongest outing yet as it tops his stunning debut (2005’s Brick) and catapults over the darkly charming The Brothers Bloom. There aren’t simply some moments that work; this isn’t a start-and-stop science fiction film. No, this is fully charged creative force that manages to attack moral quandaries with style, humor, and age old questions. His explanation for the mechanics of time travel is intensely clear. And his organization of the film’s many elements is slick; the pairing of multiplex delights with quiet indie-like intelligence is to be commended.
Comparisons to director Christopher Nolan are bound to be made and time will tell if Johnson, who certainly has my attention, will follow in those same footsteps with his own franchise. Regardless, he should continue asking his audience “What if” questions if the result are movies like this one. The future is wide open with cinematic possibilities for his talents.
Looper is a film your future self doesn’t want you to miss.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.
Runtime: 118 mins.
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Cast: Bruce Willis; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Emily Blunt Paul Dano; Piper Perabo
Genre: Sci-fi | Thriller | Action
Tagline: Face your past. Fight Your Future.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You're going to kill this guy, your own self?"
Distributor: TriStar Pictures
Official Site: www.loopermovie.com
Release Date: September 28, 2012
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: December 31, 2012.
Synopsis: In the future, time travel will be invented - but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a "looper" - a hired gun, like Joe - is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good until the day the mob decides to "close the loop," sending back Joe's future self for assassination.
Available on Blu-ray - December 31, 2012
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD); UV digital copy; Mobile features
Region Encoding: A
Sony’s 1080p high definition presentation of Looper looks fantastic on blu-ray. Colors are properly saturated without any noticeable issues. Flesh tones appear to be spot on and speckled with nice details. There is also a fine layer of grain. Unfortunately, there are a few instances of blacks that aren't quite as dark as they should be. That being noted, fine detail is absolutely superb throughout the entire film whether it's the intricate textures of firearms or the individual whiskers of a beard. The transfer may not be perfect, but it sure comes awfully close. Provided with a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, Looper is well-armed for its prime directive. Dialogue is clear and concise through the center channel even during the film's more intense sequences. Channel separation between the fronts and surrounds envelops the viewer into the relentless sound field. Overall, an excellent presentation of this science fiction film.
- Recorded by its writer/director and its stars, the feature length commentary with Johnson, Gordon-Levitt, and Blunt is entertaining and informative and provides extra context on Johnson’s creative process and any lingering questions you might have about time travel, plot holes, etc.
An astonishing collection of 22 deleted scenes that total nearly 37 minutes starts up the supplemental material. Most were cut obvious reasons and many have almost no dialogue, but they are interesting and definitely a welcome addition to an overall disappointing special features selection. They also feature optional commentary from Rian Johnson and Actor Noah Segan. Next up is an eight minute look at the science of time travel. Next is a 16 minute look at how the film was scored by using three examples. Lastly, we are given an animated trailer for the film as well as an Ultraviolet Digital Copy code. Unfortunately, the special features are a little lacking in substance.
- Deleted Scenes (37 min)
- The Future from the Beginning (8 min)
- The Science of Time Travel (8 min)
- Scoring Looper (16 min)
- Looper Animated Trailer (2 min)