Sunday, September 30, 2012

Movie Review: "Looper"

Time travel is a tremendously intriguing concept. I'll admit I've thought about it for purely selfish reasons, if only to be able to go back and tell teenage Larry that things wouldn't be as bad as they seemed forever, and to be happy with who he is instead of fixated on what other people think. Of course, there's the whole worry about altering the course of human events by accidentally messing something up, which you know I would totally do given the fact I can barely walk through a room without bumping into something.

Time travel figures prominently in Rian Johnson's smart, cool, bizarre, and intriguing Looper. Well, sort of. In 2044, when the movie takes place, time travel won't be invented for another 30 years. However, in the future, a shady crime syndicate, led by an evil mastermind known as The Rainmaker, has found a perfect way to corner the assassination market—they ship people back in time, where Mob-employed soldiers (called loopers) are waiting with clunky, powerful guns known as blunderbusses to shoot them dead. It literally happens in a split second—the victim appears at a designated time, the looper shoots them, collects their pay (strapped to the back of the victim), and presto.

But sometimes the looper gets the simultaneously desired and unenviable assignment of killing their future self, or "closing the loop." It's desired because that ends your contract with the mob—you get a terrific payday in gold bars and can spend the next 30 years living the life you've always dreamed. But, umm, in 30 years, you're, well, dead.

Get it?

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper. He does his job with no real pleasure or guilt, but has a special bond with Abe (Jeff Daniels), the mob boss sent from the future to oversee the loopers. He's practicing French, for when he can close his loop and retire to France for the last 30 years of his life. He spends his nights in clubs, deadening himself through drug-laced eye drops, hanging out with friends, and marveling over the gap between the haves and have-nots.

And then one day, his older self drops into 2044. Time for Joe to close his loop. But older Joe is no average shmo, he's Bruce Willis. So needless to say, Old Joe gets the jump on his younger self. Which doesn't sit well with the mob, which then has to hunt down both Joes. Young Joe is determined to close his loop, make things right with Abe and the mob, and head to France, but Old Joe has different ideas.

Joe figures out a way to get the jump on his older self, and heads to a farmhouse in Kansas occupied by Sarah (Emily Blunt), a shotgun-toting homesteader determined to protect her son, Sid, at any cost. There's some complicated psychological drama between Sarah and Sid, and Sid is a very complicated child. And when Joe figures out exactly what his older self is up to, he has to make some pretty crucial decisions—fast—while eluding the mob and trying to protect Sarah and Sid.

As you can probably tell, this is a difficult movie to review without giving stuff away, but as twisted as the plot may seem (and it is), Johnson does a fantastic job tying everything together and answering almost all of your questions. And he does this so skillfully that you're not exactly sure who to root for and who to root against.

At first thought, you'd never believe Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be a younger Bruce Willis. But a little skilled makeup work, coupled with dead-on gestures and a slightly raspier voice, makes this totally plausible. Once again, Gordon-Levitt proves he has the talent, charisma, and emotional depth to be a major star. He jumps into this role with gusto, but makes Joe a much more complicated character than he could be. Bruce Willis is at his kick-ass best, coupling his bravado with a bit of the sensitivity he demonstrated so well in Moonrise Kingdom earlier this year. Emily Blunt also does a great job, although her character isn't quite as complex as Gordon-Levitt or Willis'.

This movie couples some of the mind-bending confusion of Inception with a little of the uncertainty of Total Recall (the original, please), and some of Children of Men' bleak dystopian vision. But it gives you more character development than you'd think you'd get in a movie like this. You may sit in the theater a little bewildered, wondering what exactly is going on, but the payoff is worth it.

No comments:

Post a Comment