Three words… Joseph. Gordon. Levitt. This man seems to be lighting up the big screen lately. All of his supporting roles in big movies paved the way for a lead role in a movie like Looper. JGL takes center stage as the looper, Joe. And I must say, he does a very good job of it. It was a little eerie to see his face altered to loo more like his older counterpart, Bruce Willis, but his expressions made it very believable.
Before I get into explaining the details of the movie and what I liked and disliked, I do have to say that even seeing this movie was the product of a first-time event for me. Peter Carlos, the station manager at LUTV, got me in on a conference call interview with the movie’s writer and director, Rian Johnson. Brittany Velasco and Steve Kornfeld, the hosts of my show Reel Talk, sat with me huddled around my phone on speaker mode as reporters from various universities and publications asked Rian questions about making the movie. It was a pretty great experience for us, Steve and Brittany will be discussing it and the movie on Reel Talk next week.
Okay so back to the story, a “looper” is basically a hitman for the mob. Thirty years into the future, time travel is possible. It is deemed illegal, but the mob has ways of using it still. It’s really hard to dispose of a body in the future, so the people they want gone are sent back in time to be killed and disposed of by a looper… so says Joe in a voice over monologue at the beginning of the film.
The first thing I have to point out is how futuristic this movie is. From the trailers, I couldn’t tell that the ‘present’ time was still thirty years from now. The best part is it’s believable future. The whole of society hasn’t fundamentally changed, but technology has advanced. Loopers use a gun called a blunderbuss, a reference to the old pirate guns. They’re made to be extremely effective within a 15 yard range, making it almost impossible for a looper to miss his target.
We’re led to believe that humanity has been forced to find alternative forms of fuel. There are some crude looking hover vehicles, but there are mostly a lot of modern cars made to look old, retrofitted with solar panels and electrical circuitry. Clothing styles have changed a bit. Jeff Daniels, who steals the spotlight every time he’s on screen, plays Abe, the future mob’s liaison who traveled back in time to start the loopers. His character makes fun of Joe for wearing a tie, as if they had gone out of fashion.
The second big thing I noticed is the mechanics of the timelines. Now this time travel is only one way, like in the Terminator. One physical change to a looper immediately shows in his older self. There’s a pretty gruesome scene of that happening to someone. Memories from the older self start to change as well. Following that logic, it seems like any big change caused by the older self to the younger self’s life could make his existence disappear. But at the same time, my brain starts overheating when I think too much on the endless possibilities of creating a paradox… If you’re not trying to debunk the whole movie, it’s definitely enjoyable and the timeline logic makes sense.
Story wise, I think everything ties together rather nicely. The kid and his mom on the farm kind of came out of left field, since most of the movie took place in a city, but it ended up leading to some of the most impressive shots in the movie. There’s a periodic mention of humanity developing telekinetic abilities throughout most of the movie, but it’s not explored very much until the end. Unfortunately, while the human race could use the Force, most of them couldn’t do much more than levitate a coin. And the main character Joe didn’t use it so you end up not caring much about it until the movie is hitting its climax.
And speaking of that kid and his mom Sarah, the latter is played by Emily Blunt, the kid is super creepy so right away you know something’s up with him. In the first few shots of him, his face isn’t shown at all. While these characters seemed to be stitched into the later half of the story, Johnson did a good job of making them immediately relevant. There was a brief romance between Joe and Sarah, which winds up rather quickly. Sarah goes from threatening to blow Joe’s head off with a shotgun to her inviting him to the bedroom within a couple of days. But I guess if I lived on a farm with no one to keep me company but my kid, I’d jump on the first attractive woman that came my way. In probably less time.
I’m not sure if the intentions were for this movie to be so funny, but it was. Amidst the gruesome world of crime syndicates and time assassinations, most of the characters got at least one laugh from the audience. The weird dynamic between young Joe and old Joe is pretty great, with the cocky young Joe thinking he has everything planned out and the wiser old Joe knowing that his life was a mess for quite a while. It worked for the all too brief scene they had together in a diner.
One of the reporters in the conference call asked Rian how he went about pairing Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt. He said he wrote the part with Joseph Gordon Levitt in mind. While he didn’t think of Bruce Willis specifically for the older version, he knew it had to be someone that stood out as an accomplished actor. Johnson then went on describing the “Bruce Willi-ness” he brought to the movie.
Overall, I think the movie was pretty good. Other than a few minor things I could pick out if I was being harsh, the movie was shot really well and the story kept me interested for the whole two hours. I really appreciate a good mix of science fiction, action, and comedy, and this movie definitely did the job.