“I don’t wanna talk about time travel shit. Cause if we start talkin’ about it, then we’re gonna be here all day talkin’ about it, makin’ diagrams with straws.” This is a line that Bruce Willis’s character Joe says to his younger self when asked about time travel, and I personally think it’s some of the best advice he could give the audience as well.
Reason being? While Looper is one of the best, most original sci-fi films to come along in recent years, there’s no doubt going to be a lot of healthy (and sometimes not so healthy) debating going on between people once the film comes to an end about what made sense to some, and what didn’t make sense to others. Odds are opinions won’t change, and frustrations will only build, so your best bet is to either take solace knowing you either did or didn’t enjoy the film, or you can sit around all day trying to convince people one way or another by makin’ diagrams with straws.
Now, while I won’t go so far as to make any diagrams, I will touch on why this is a film that should be seen if you haven’t seen it, and then you can decide for yourself which side of the fence you land on from there. Looper is set in the year 2044, and thirty years in the future, time travel has been invented and outlawed, and now only top criminal organizations have found ways to use it. What they do is if they want to kill someone, they send them back in time 30 years, where a “looper” is waiting for them at the exact moment they appear. The second this person shows up, the looper fires a single shot, killing them instantly. They then dispose of the body after taking the payment that’s strapped onto the back of the person they just killed.
The reason they’re sent back in time is because in the future, everyone is tagged, so you can’t simply dispose of a body. By sending them back in time, the body simply ceases to exist, and nobody is the wiser about what happened. Of course, there’s a catch, as when the mob in the future wants to cut ties with a looper in the past, they simply send that person’s future self back in time, and the looper kills himself, only finding out he’s done so when he retrieves the final payment from the body, which is enough to let him live in luxury for his remaining 30 years until he’s sent back and killed by himself once again 30 years in the past.
This is the case with Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is about to kill his target when he suddenly appears without the usual sack over his head, and Young Joe instantly recognizes him as his older self. Still, Young Joe knows what happens if you don’t close your loop (let’s just say you won’t be enjoying those 30 years of newly earned wealth), so he shoots to kill anyways. The hesitation, however, is enough for Old Joe to knock young Joe out, and escape with his life.
Now, Old Joe isn’t just looking to live another day, no, he’s on a mission from the future. That mission is to stop a man from the future who calls himself the “Rainmaker” from taking over the major crime syndicates and closing all the loops – effectively killing off all loopers in one major sweep. In order to do this Old Joe must find this Rainmaker while he’s still a child, and kill him, and the only thing he has to go off of is a random set of numbers, and three possible locations of where the child could be.
This is just a brief explanation of what the film is about, as there’s plenty of more that I haven’t even touched upon, and the story really hasn’t even started yet. In a nutshell, Young Joe wants to stop Old Joe, because not only is it his job, but it’s his life that hangs in the balance. You might think, “But isn’t Old Joe really Young Joe, so wouldn’t their lives be the same?” and the answer is yes, to a degree. You see, Young Joe wants to live his life, as Old Joe has already had his 30 years. So really, Young Joe is simply trying to do right for himself, and not get stuck living someone else’s life – even if that someone else is himself. Have you gone cross-eyed yet?
The story is really well crafted by writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) and it does a great job of really making the viewer pay attention to details that pay off later on. It’s definitely a film that warrants multiple viewings, and it’s so well told that doing so should be a pleasure for those who enjoy it. Johnson’s work behind the camera is strong here as well, as he keeps the story intense, even during the more dramatic, unassuming scenes.
On the acting front, Gordon-Levitt continues to show why he’s such a rising star in Hollywood, as he really captures being a younger Bruce Willis. While make-up and special effects help give him a subtle Willis look, it’s his uncanny ability to match Willis’s mannerisms that really sells the part. Willis, on the other hand, does a great job playing a man on a mission, who knows what he has to do, even though he’s at odds with himself on a deeper level to follow through. The two have great chemistry when on screen together, which really helps sell the complexity of the situation they’re both facing.
Speaking of chemistry, Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt also have it flowing between them. Blunt plays single mother Sara, and when Young Joe finds his way to her farm, what starts as a relationship based solely on survival and protection blossoms nicely into a closer bond, and it’s done so smoothly that it’s totally believable. And while all the actors mentioned above are great, the real scene-stealer in this film is the young Pierce Gagnon, who plays Blunt’s son, Cid. Gagnon has some wonderfully dramatic scenes, and between him and Quvenzhane Wallis from Beasts of the Southern Wild, this was a great year for emerging young child stars to get noticed.
Looper won’t be for everybody, I’m fully aware of that; however, that doesn’t stop me from recognizing it as one of the top films of 2012. It’s an intriguing, unique story with some fantastic acting to really bring it home. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction or not, this is definitely one you don’t want to miss; however, do yourself a favour and leave the bag of straws out of it.
The film looks fantastic on Blu-ray, as the visuals shine whether it’s during the day, at night, inside or out. The audio is also spot on, with crisp, clean dialogue that’s mixed with perfectly tuned rhythmic music, tones and sound effects.
There’s plenty to watch in the special features section of this Blu-ray release, especially if you’re a fan of deleted/alternate scenes.
Feature Commentary with Rian Johnson, Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Here’s a group of people you want to hear from when it comes to this film. There’s lots of set talk, as well as thoughts and opinions on various aspects of the film that fan’s will want to check out.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary – There are over twenty deleted scenes to be found on this disc, which adds up to over 37 minutes in total. There’s lots of stuff here that simply would’ve slowed down the pacing too much, or hinted at things too much, or simply wasn’t needed. There’s a lot of cut footage of one of the film’s antagonists Kid Blue (Noah Segan), which showed him tracing the steps of Young Joe, though these scenes really weren’t needed, and definitely would’ve brought the pacing to a halt in most cases. A few scenes with Willis helped show more of his life in the future; however, it’s really just spelling out what we already know, and while some ideas were interesting, in the end they were rightfully cut.
Looper: From the Beginning – This featurette runes at just under eight minutes in length and has the cast and crew talking about the film in general, their thoughts on the script, working with one another, and so forth.
The Science of Time Travel – This featurette is just over eight minutes and has the same group of cast and crew above talking about time travel. They give their thoughts on what they believe so far as time travel is concerned, and we also here from author Brian Clegg, who wrote “How to Build a Time Machine.”
Scoring Looper – This featurette is just over 16 minutes in length, and sees composer Nathan Johnson talking about scoring the film. Sound junkies will love this piece, as he talks about how he went around collecting various wild sounds and how they used those to help create a unique sound for the film. Those who love sound will likely drool at the complexity that went into making this score, and those who don’t know much about sound will likely be in awe at how this came to be.
Looper Animated Trailer – This is pretty much what it sounds like, and is a minute and a half long. However, the animation you’re likely thinking of is cartoony, whereas this piece is no dialogue, all score, and more pastels, water colours, and oil paintings type look. It’s quite artistic, and a fun, quick watch.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Looper. Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Qing Xu, Paul Dano. Running time: 119 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: December 31, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.