Let me set the mood: it’s another Friday evening and instead of wasting it at home, brave little me went to the cinema all alone to see her boy kick some time travel ass. I was expecting sci-fi, romance and action (as it was promised to me by somebody I can’t remember) and after 10 minutes of commercials it began with a familiar voice reading the premises of the movie and I loved it already. To be fair, I’m a big sci-fi fan and I call Joseph Gordon-Levitt “my boy”, so it is difficult for me not to love Rian Johnson’s Looper to a point where I call it my favorite of the year.
This post does contain spoilers so proceed with caution.
“It’s about the notion of breaking that loop because the loop is at the an unhealthy cycle of self-interest motivating violence, which motivates the self interest of someone else, which motivates violence…” R. Johnson
Every now and then, cinematic stars line up and magic happens! I’m aware of this phenomena being subjective so I completely understand if somebody is going to disagree with me, but nothing is going to take away the excitement I have over Looper. To start off, the writing of a sci-fi is always complex because it does go beyond logic but it still needs to be logical – what I think Rian Johnson achieved was a coherent story line with no apparent flaws (nothing suspicious really jumped up from the first viewing) and presented the movie in a neat little package. The quantity and quality of plot elements was exactly right and they were strategically placed so the story could have a better impact (I’ll explain my thoughts more thoroughly later on). Second of all, for me personally, the casting was just heaven with Pierce Gagnon, the little kid, as a cherry on top and don’t get me started about Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis.
Young Joe, portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a looper, or in more common terms, a hit-man for the future and although the job is profitable, the downside is the way the contract ends – basically, the looper kills its future self and has 30 years to live: closes the loop. Yet, as the past and future paradox is a loop, I see it as an endless circle of killing your future self and 30 years later you will be sent back to be killed by your past self. Time travel does seem to have a certain logic to it while all the illogical is making my head hurt. I try not to focus on the paradox itself but the way it was presented: as a conflict between good and evil. As Joe in an interview explains, Looper doesn’t have a hero nor a villain but it has the combination of both in its main character(s) – young Joe and old Joe (Bruce Willis).
The conflict that we witness is not only between the young and the old Joe but also in the viewer itself. As old Joe kills a young boy he thinks is going to be the Rainmaker in the future, we see him as a villain and yet, the young Joe is still a hero in our eyes. As we start thinking of the fact that they are still the same person, we see Joe as a paradox of good and bad which is a very interesting concept that deserves much more attention than I’m giving at the moment. As far as the casting goes, I appreciate the decision to have two different actors for the future and the past (with my boy wearing some unflattering face make-up) because it made the story a bit vague. I couldn’t help to see them as two different characters for numerous times and having to remind myself that they were the same person, that gives Looper a certain Inception type of depth that a sci-fi movie deserves.
As far as other elements go in the movie, I mentioned perfect quality and quantity and by that I mean the gadgets and the telekinesis ability. Johnson doesn’t go overboard with the technological enhancements as far as I’m concerned. There are new kinds of computers, floating motorcycles and of course the time travel, but he introduced them in a world that looked so familiar to “now” that the impact of those elements isn’t as monumental. I think it works, it gives Looper this familiar vibe and yet allows it to be futuristic – this is my idea of having perfect quantity of elements. The telekinesis as a genetic mutation in some people is showed in the beginning as just a detail, and though I had a feeling that it would be very important in the end, I actually forgot all about it in the middle of the movie. Maybe it was just me but I actually think that Johsnon planned it to happen because he showed just a glimpse of it in the beginning and then eliminated it completely to be brought back as a twist. Worked for me and I was surprised but not confused – quantity/quality at its best.
Looper also has a romantic side to it but I feel as if it doesn’t become as important as the concept of “love” in general. Although the young Joe and Sara (Emily Blunt) share an unseen grown-up bed rumbling (because apparently I can’t write “sex scene” like a normal person), the fundamental part of the script is actually Cid’s (Pierce Gagnon) and Sara’s relationship. Mother’s love is another key element of the plot and I felt like it was effective due to the amazing performance of Gagnon. That kid was scary and cute and brilliant – surely a scene stealer in Looper and a talent like that should be illegal at such a young age. If it were any other kid, I think it wouldn’t have worked in such capacity as it did, so props to the casting because it gave Looper that extra special something. And since I’m already giving credit, I want to point out that Jeff Daniels had another small yet great role as Abe.
As I don’t want to drag out this review into a long love letter of how I adored everything about Looper, I just want to finish off with an audio-visual praise. Since I already mentioned that the vibe of the movie was a perfect mix of “now” and futuristic, the movie looked stylish and cinematography gave it justice. Already in the beginning, when young Joe uses the fridge as a source of light, the dark room and the blue light gleaming was just beautiful, and there were many moments like this. Steve Yedlin (cinematographer) and Rian Johnson have worked together before which shows because I feel like the whole vibe of Looper was brought together with the visuals of “normal” elements such as the sun light and wind. It’s hard to explain, I just felt it was more current as futuristic because Looper was set to show that not much had changed over time. Soundtrack was awesome, and it’s been proven as we speak because I’ve been listening to it all morning.
All in all, I can go on and on about different elements and nuances I saw, while wanting to see Looper again and again, but everything must come to an end at some point. Which is ironic, because that is exactly what young Joe decided in the end due to his connection and similarities with Cid. Oh guys, you have no idea how much I enjoyed this movie because for me, everything simply worked and I’m very happy about that. I had my doubts and I had my fears, but man, were they crushed by the time the credits rolled up in the end – by far my favorite of the year!