Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looper review

After seeing the time travel movie, Looper, I was reminded of a scene in a different time travel movie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. (1999) The scene has Austin Powers questioning a paradox on time travel with Basil Exposition. Confused, Basil says Powers should not to worry about such things and tells him to just enjoy himself. He then turns to the camera and tells the movie audience the same thing. (Clip below.) And if you see Looper, you should follow Basil's advice and not worry about any time travel paradox.

Looper takes place in the future. The year is 2044. It's Kansas. The United States is suffering from severe economic distress. Ten percent of the population have a mutation which gives them telekinesis though it's a weak power. Thirty years later in 2074, time travel is invented, though it's illegal. The mob uses time travel in 2074 to send back people to 2044 for assassination. That way bodies can be disposed of without proof of their death. The hit men are called Loopers. They're called that because when the mob is finished with the hitmen in the future, they send them back to the past to be killed by their past selves. The act is called closing the loop.

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the Loopers. His life is dominated by killing, drug addiction and a desire to travel to France. Things change when Joe's older self, "Old Joe" (Bruce Willis), is sent back for him to kill. Old Joe has other plans and escapes. Old Joe has found a reason to live due to a wife (Quing Xu) he meets in Shanghai. She is killed by a super criminal named The Rainmaker. Old Joe's plan is to kill The Rainmaker as a child and thus change the timeline. However, failing to kill your target, especially your old self leads to the Looper being hunted down.

The performances in Looper are just excellent. Bruce Willis as Old Joe uses facial expressions to show a world weary criminal and later a changed man. Jeff Daniels plays mob boss Abe. He's practical and menacing at the same time. English actress Emily Blunt as single mother Sara, delivers her lines in a pitch perfect American country accent. Pierce Gagnon as her son, Cid, is believable which is remarkable for an actor so young. Joseph Gordon-Levitt with the help of mild facial prosthetics, channels a young Bruce Willis. He has a younger Willis' facial expressions and vocal inflections. It's a form of time travel.

Writer and director Rian Johnson uses different genres to make an imaginative film. There's film noir, westerns, and of course, science fiction. Looper is a mix of Terminator, Blade Runner and the Godfather. The film is helped by dialogue that feels real. The movie focuses on the emotional actions and moral decisions of the characters. Johnson also doesn't abuse us with fancy camera shots either. He lets his actors do their job and lets action sequences deliver the excitement. Johnson also has a talent for framing scenes. This is one beautiful looking movie. Many scenes look like a Hopper painting. Kudos to his director of cinematography, Steve Yedin.

Looper is not a perfect movie. There are problems. First, Johnson asks the audience to trust the rules of the movie he sets up. He doesn't explain how humanity got the telekinesis mutation. Then there is a flash forward that can get confusing since the movie doesn't really explain it.

Then there is the issue of time travel. If you're a Star Trek fan, you might have an advantage here. And I'm talking about Star Trek, the TV series. I won't get into the exact Trek episodes or series but time travel here is handled like the original series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever." That means if you change the timeline in the past, you change the future. Looper asks the question, if you could go back in time to kill Hitler as a child, would you? The problem occurs when you think about Old Joe's actions. I won't go over them since it would spoil the movie but all the things that happen to him can't exist. It's like the grandfather paradox in time travel. In fact, the film knows this when two characters Abe and Old Joe talk about the paradoxes of time travel.

Looper is a well made film. It's gorgeous to look at. And the moral choices are thought provoking fare. Just take Basil's advice. Don't think too much about time travel and enjoy the movie. The grade is B +.

No comments: