Looper (2012)

Written & Directed by Rian Johnson

Depending on who is reading this right now I could either have a group of people who know and love Rian Johnson or I could have a group of people who are saying “Who the hell is Rian Johnson?” And that’s fine, in both cases. I either get to jolly up with the cinephiles and discuss how great Rian Johnson is or I get to introduce the casual movie-goer to just how special of a filmmaker Rian Johnson is. This is the first major major release for Johnson in what is hopefully just the beginning of a long career. He had previously worked with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his debut film Brick back in 2005. Brick, of course, being pretty much downright freakin’ sweet. Then he upped his name-meter with Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel Weisz in The Brothers Bloom, which is also fantastic and highly recommended. But now with the release of Looper, Johnson has a shot at taking the weekend’s top spot at the box office.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) lives in 2044 Kansas as an apparently successful young man. Come to find that this success comes from his peculiar job, which is as a hitman for the mob in the future. Time travel doesn’t exist in 2044, but it will in 2074, when the mob will send targets back to the past for these hitmen, or loopers, to quickly dispose of. Joe is a young man, and as such he likes to go out, party, do a little drugs, and why shouldn’t he when he knows he will be dead in 30 year. Ah, the catch. The mob can’t keep the “loop” open forever, so when they choose to close it, they track down the future looper and send them back to be killed by their past self. So when Joe (this time Bruce Willis) shows up in front of himself, the younger version reconsiders. This brief hesitation causes chaos as the young looks to make things right, and the old looks to survive.

Time travel is always a tricky subject matter, what with all the “rules” that have to be followed or else the entire universe will explode and what not. So right off the bat Rian Johnson has landed himself in a sticky situation, but my approach to these movies has always been to just keep an open mind and not worry too much about what is and what isn’t possible in this type of scenario. And to be pretty honest I think Johnson does a pretty good job of keeping things straight. He also manages to do a ton of other things right too. It’s hard to really pinpoint all the good things that went into this film, it is always harder to talk about what worked rather than what didn’t. But the performances were good, the camerawork was good, the pacing was good. Everything was solid. I do have some criticism when it comes to the story however.

Rian Johnson is a fantastic writer, let me make no mistake about that, but there were aspects of the film that were so strikingly familiar that I couldn’t help but think “derivative”. Now, hear me out before you storm off fuming. The story quickly recalls The Terminator, and the comparison is undeniable. It also made me think of something like The Omen, for reasons I care not to disclose in this non-spoiler review. So in that respect I did see it as disappointing. There was also a scene of violence I felt went too far and felt out of place with the rest of the film and, leaving spoilers aside, the ending is one that leaves me conflicted by its very nature. That being said, have you ever seen a cross between The Terminator and The Omen? So while it draws from the past, it paves the road for the future at the same time by creating something new. The same ingredients, just a different recipe And it can get away with this delicious concoction because it is such a well made film.

The good far outweighs the nitpicks. I just cannot get over how awesome Rian Johnson is! Gosh, I sound like such a fanboy, but I already cannot wait to see his next film. It seems as though he is right at home behind the camera, guiding the audience so confidently through the story. And for that reason I thought Looper was a fantastic film. Gordon-Levitt is solid as ever, Bruce Willis manages to find his talented way into another of my favorites from this year (the other being Moonrise Kingdom). This should be just the break into the mainstream that will quickly make Johnson a household name. When you can take sci-fi and mix it with thriller, crime, romance and even a spice of horror, you gotta have a handle on things.

***1/2 – Great

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