Much like with The Raid, I’d heard pretty much only good things about Rian Johnson’s Looper. The trailers I’d seen looked good and according to post-Cop Out Bruce Willis detractor Kevin Smith the movie was so good that it even made him like Willis again, so that definitely piqued my interest. Plus, who doesn’t love a good time travel movie? I’ve seen some really killer newer entries into the genre lately between Primer and Triangle (I wasn’t as big a fan of Timecrimes).
My wife and I watched this movie over the weekend and I was pretty taken aback by it, something I can’t say about most movies. There were some faulty bits that I’ll get to in a graph or two, but first, let’s talk about all the good stuff. This story is fantastic. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an executioner in 2044 who works for mobsters in 2074 who have access to time travel tech. They have a hard time offing people in the future, so they transport people to the past where a Looper is waiting for them with a blunderbuss and blow the target away. Things go crazy in the film when JGL’s future self (Willis) gets sent back without the usual restraints and winds up getting away. Willis is on a mission to save his life while JGL just wants to get his old life back. The craziness flows from there.
While I really dug the story, there some story elements that bothered me though. Why do Loopers have such silly guns? Sure a blunderbuss can blow a hole in an elephant, but why not train them to shoot a guy in the head or even use an automatic weapon? I only ask this question because it seems like this detail was added in for the sole purpose of giving JGL a weapon that’s basically useless at the very end of the film. Also, why are they called Loopers? JGL explains in voiceover that it’s because the mob will send the Looper’s future self back for the current Looper to kill, but isn’t that funny naming logic? You don’t name a guy for the last part of his job, do you? I still can’t tell if I have a problem with the telekinesis stuff or not. On one hand, you can just accept is as part of the world, a piece of information that’s put in place and paid off for at the end of the movie. On the other hand, it could be a kind of tacked-on bit of business that’s only there to turn a character who would normally be non-threatening into something you really have to worry about.
Even with the above complaints, I was really moved by this movie. First off, it’s a daring story that goes weird places you don’t expect your basic theater-fare to go. Bruce Willis also stars as a somewhat relatable character doing incredibly awful things to try and save his family. Plus, JGL absolutely kills in the film. He carries the intensity and rawness of his own character while also channelling Willis in ways that don’t seem cheap or hokey. Plus, he really rocks that prosthetic nose and begin to believe he’s almost a completely new person (I kept thinking he looked like Shia at times in the film). And man, that ending. I did not see it coming and it hit me in the gut like heavyweight punch. That’s something else you don’t see often.
If you’re like me and just about everyone I’ve talked to about this movie and want to learn more about Johnson’s life, creative process and experience making this film, check out Kevin Smith’s 2-part SmodCast/SmovieMakers podcast interview with the director (here and here) who also goes into detail on his previous efforts Brick and Brothers Bloom.