Looper (2012)

Looper (poster by Zachary Johnson)

(Poster by Zachary Johnson)

The year is 2044 and time travel has not yet been invented. But in 2074, it will have been. Levitt plays Joe, whose job is to stand in a field at a specific time of day, a futuristic shotgun (called ‘blunderbuss’) in hand, then shoot a tied and hooded person that is to come out of thin air. The catch is, the person that appears out of nowhere is someone who is sent from thirty years in the future. In 2074, time travel will already have been invented and banned by the government, but some mob syndicate still uses it illegally to get rid of unwanted people. So what people like Joe (who are called ‘loopers’) do is kill those people for them, and burn the bodies. In return, they will get blocks of silver as a payment. But there comes a time when a looper shoots someone who happens to be his future self, thus ‘closing his loop’, retires from the job and continues to live his life for the next thirty years.

Young Joe was standing in the field at the instructed time, waiting for his target to appear. Unlike usual, this time the target doesn’t come on time. He waits a while but then the figure that pops up is unhooded. Caught off guard and intrigued, Joe hesitates for a few seconds, but that was enough for the target to disarm him and run away. That target is, of course, Joe’s future self.

What comes after that is actually not a full-action chase act (although there is that), but rather a more profound and thought-provoking story. Granted, there are a lot of shootings involved, but what sets Looper apart from most sci-fi movies is the discerning human drama that drives it. At first, old Joe’s motives and plans feel reasonable enough, but when we are introduced to Emily Blunt’s character and her son, we begin to second guess old Joe’s decision.

Young Joe’s rigid character is someone who is hurt by his past, but rather than staying hurt, he has become a man focused on ensuring himself a bright future. An ambitious man set to get his happy ending. When his older self escapes, there’s no doubt in his voice when he says “I’m gonna find him, and I’m gonna kill him!”, no way he’s going to let himself ruin the hardwork. We don’t see him as someone who’s particularly concerned about other people and yet throughout the film we see him grow from making doubtless choices for his own interest to making one that ascends that.

The last half of the movie, involving Emily Blunt’s character, Sara, and her son Cid, is what gives the movie a lot more depth than what the first half offers. The movie calmly takes it time to build the relationship between Sara, Cid and young Joe, making the climax all the more riveting. Yes, the female character is served as a love interest for the main character, but that is only a small part of her purpose. It is far from being the main concern and Blunt is so good at balancing everything. She shows Sara’s toughness and determination, but also her vulnerability as a mother who is both scared and protective of her child. Young Pierce Gagnon who plays Cid is also a talent to watch for.

For those who are attracted to this movie by Willis’ name might be a wee bit disappointed. His screen time is a lot less than expected and the movie is surely lead by Gordon-Levitt. Equipped with prothetics, Gordon-Levitt’s likeness to Willis can sometimes be uncanny. Although there are times when I feel that it’s a little bit overdone and thus, distracting, overall it doesn’t take all the attention away and Gordon-Levitt sure proves again and again, that he’s one of the best young actors around. 2012 has been very nice to him, he’s had three exceptional roles and will later be seen again in the end of the year opposite THE Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. He has always been an excellent actor but the movie choices that he makes tends to make him stay under the radar, so it’s quite nice to see him in the spotlight at last.

There is often a character that’s timid, cowardly and yet trying to act tough and gain all credits. This time, the wimp is Kid Blue, played by Noah Segan. He’s one of those characters who are good looking, yet so unlikable, and Segan uses his limited screen time smartly. Other secondary roles are just as good–Jeff Daniels who plays a guy sent from the future to oversee the whole looper business, Paul Dano who plays Joe’s friend and fellow looper who fails to close his loop, and Garret Dillahunt who plays one of Joe’s hunters.

Looper is a weighty sci-fi movie that doesn’t rely on its sci-fi features but more on its characters and story. It doesn’t keep you occupied with trying to figure out the time travel aspect and how it works, but rather lets you focus on the story. This is only Johnson’s third full feature and it feels like a big game-changer for him. Looper’s small budget can sometimes be felt while watching it so let’s hope in the future Johnson will be able to continue making great movies, on a bigger budget.


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