100th post! Film review: Looper (2012)

Looper

Genre: Sci-Fi/Thriller

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Joe), Bruce Willis (older Joe), Emily Blunt (Sara), Jeff Daniels (Abe), Paul Dano (Seth), Pierce Gagnon (Cid)

Director/Writer: Rian Johnson

Congratulations to me! This is the Blog of Big Ideas’ 100th post!

After Hollywood has been able to churn out remake after remake, sequel after sequel, adaptation upon adaptation, and even combining several characters with their own films to make a “bigger” and “badder” one (The Avengers), Looper appears on the sci-fi horizon as a breath of fresh air, a wholly original piece without precedent that is driven by story, and not by special effects or the inevitable explosive battle scene.

Looper is Rian Johnson‘s creation, shot by shot and line by line (minus studio interventions). As a result, it’s a sci-fi film that dares to takes us away from a futuristic and messy urban sprawl, to the remoteness and tranquility of rural America simply because the script dictates it. Looper has nothing to prove, it’s not afraid of losing the attention of audiences and relies on its characters’ story arcs to build up tension leading to a grand finale that is both unexpected yet obvious as soon as it unfolds.

The title role of Joe, a Looper, or for all intents and purposes, a killer for hire, is played by two actors at different stages of his life. The younger one is a nearly unrecognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt whose face is plastered with prosthetic in order to look similar to his older self, played by a certain Bruce Willis who has made a name for himself taking on troubled asocial characters with clear goals that are pursued with great drive and intensity.

Despite the odd use of prosthetic, which I deem unnecessary, Gordon-Levitt delivers a great performance just by simply mimicking the mannerisms of a Bruce Willis who is little more than his usual kick-ass self (not that we need him to be more).
Interestingly, the film also casts Jeff Daniels as a gangster from the future who bosses the Loopers around. This is an effective performance despite my initial hesitation as Daniels uses his comedic ease with a devilish grin that inspires fear in those around him. More of the Jeff Daniels in HBO’s The Newsroom and less of his iconic role in Dumber and Dumber.

Jeff Looper

There are several layers of complexity to the story. One comes from time-traveling, a subject that has captivated scientists and movie-makers alike. Crucially, the film averts the pitfalls of obsessing over the endlessly complicated subject by simply using it as an anchor to the entire story. Looper explains what it must, but leaves most of it to our imagination. Rarely has a film taken so many leaps of faith in a more seamless fashion. Not once did I question the logic of the plot until after I was done watching.

But to say Looper is anchored on time-traveling does not mean it is driven or limited to it. Sure, the consequences of what takes place on screen are always seen in terms of time and what they all imply for the future. However, the film is far more interested in characterization, specifically on how far people will go for love, and by how violence can lead to more violence, escalating until all humanity has been stripped.

Equally interesting are the parallels of both characters, each striving for their own selfish objectives, almost maddeningly so. Along the way, the younger Joe begins to change in much the same way the older Joe managed to do so in the future he’s beginning to forget. Both are ultimately driven by love, except that their quests for happiness are not compatible, forcing them to question the very purpose of their own existence.

Visually, Looper inserts enough elements to make us believe we are indeed in some dystopian future where organized crime runs rampant. Though little beyond the Looper lifestyle is explored, there is enough shown to provide a clear enough backdrop without dwelling on it too long.

Besides the unnecessary prostetics applied to the face of Joseph Gordon Levitt, there is little to criticize in Looper, an engrossing and original sci-fi film that is thought-provoking, suspenseful and surprisingly emotional.

Rating: 4.5 / 5 (excellent)

♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas’ Top 250 Films Ever ♦

Joseph Gordon Levitt

Random thoughts:

– After Looper, Id really like for Bruce Willis to stick to doing sci-fi until his dying days.

– The decision to put prosthetic on JGL’s face underestimated the actor’s capacity to “become” Bruce Willis.

– I wonder why it’s so hard to “get rid of bodies in the future”. One of several unexplored facts the film doesn’t bother to explain.

– The kid playing Cid was just the right combination of cute, intelligent and creepy. Excellent casting choice. Would be very interesting to see what he does in the future.

N

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10 thoughts on “100th post! Film review: Looper (2012)

  1. Congrats on the 100th post! Excellent accomplishment. Looper is a brilliant 100th post topic of choice too 😀

    Looper is one of my top films of last year. Like you said, it was so refreshing to see a film that wasn’t a comic book adaptation, sequel, remake, book adaptation. It was an original film. Which makes it a little sad to see it’s not getting quite enough recognition that it deserves. You see so few truly original films these days, you’d think there’d be more fanfare when you do?

    Love that time travel almost takes a back seat in this film. It’s just the setting, not the driving force.

    Rian Johnson’s a brilliant film maker. Brick was excellent, if a little tough to get into in the beginning. And Looper is a further step forward. Combine that with some excellent episodes of Breaking Bad that he’s directed, I can’t wait to see what he does next. Preferably with Joseph Gordon Levitt in tow too 😉

  2. Yeap, you’re totally right about the lack of recognition. Looper didn’t get a single nomination for the Academy Awards. It’s a shame, I thought it was a well-executed highly original piece.
    I can’t wait to see Brick now and get more acquainted with Mr. Rian Johnson.
    Thanks for stopping by

  3. Congrats Niels! Great pick for your 100th post. Nice review, but I’m so glad you said it and I couldn’t have said it better myself… “The decision to put prosthetic on JGL’s face underestimated the actor’s capacity to “become” Bruce Willis.” I feel the exact same way! In fact it’s his mannerism that makes it work, the makeup is just distracting!

  4. “The decision to put prosthetic on JGL’s face underestimated the actor’s capacity to “become” Bruce Willis.” I agree! What’s with the face. And I really dislike JGL there, trying to be all Willis. The face was creepy enough. I don’t really like this one.
    Btw, congrats on your 100th post! Here’s to more 100!

    1. You don’t? That’s a pity. I want to agree with everybody…haha
      Actually, discord amongst the bloggers keeps it fun.
      Despite the make-up which I did find bothersome, there’s really nothing else that I could really criticize, one of the top films of the past year for me.

  5. This is one of last year’s films I’ve been wanting to see for a while but haven’t got round to yet. I’ve really enjoyed Rian Johnson’s previous work and I’m so glad this one is living up to those sorts of expectations.

  6. Congrats on hitting post 100, Niels! Great review, too. I really enjoyed this movie as well, and I’m not usually a huge sci-fi guy. I agree with you on Jeff Daniels — I thought that was an odd casting decision at first, but he really made the most of his role. Strong efforts all around. Hopefully we see more collaborations between JGL and Johnson.

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