By Will Ashton | email@example.com
Looper | Directed by Rian Johnson | Rated R
Writer/director Rian Johnson has always struck me as a great director waiting to make his first great movie.
After making his debut film Brick, starring a young(er) Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the majority of the film geek community fell in love with Johnson’s unique take on the film noir genre. While I do think the film is solid and pretty component, I also found it uninvolving and, quite frankly, kind of silly. His sophomore effort, The Brothers Bloom, a crime action/comedy starring Adrian Brody, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel Weisz, was an improvement for me in multiple ways, and yet I still found the film unmemorable and somewhat familiar.
But in both films, Johnson proved to me that he had a visual flair and a stark voice in his writing, so I could definitely see why people loved his work so much. Plus, he directed two episodes of my favorite show of all time, Breaking Bad. They just happen to be both one of my favorite episodes, “Fifty-One,” and one of my least favorite episodes, “Fly.”
So with Looper, Johnson’s third film effort, he continues to push his filmmaking boundaries by making a movie for the sci-fi genre. While this may not be his first great film, it’s pretty damn close.
In the future 2072, time travel has been invented. It’s also highly illegal to use, so it’s only used by a crime mob named Loopers, a secret underground organization that sends criminals back in time to the present 2042 in order to have their men kill them and dispose their dead bodies, thereby removing any existence and evidence of their corpses. ‘
Joe (Levitt) is just one of these men. He’s living a simple life, doing this day job in order to save money to go to France. But one day, when waiting to kill a criminal and get rid of the body, he gets sent himself, 30 years in the future (played by Bruce Willis), and, unable to kill him, must find a way to stop him from ruining his existence and his future plans.
This is another example of a film that’s best to know as little as possible before seeing it. In that brief description, I had to cut back on revealing too much information that would be unfortunate to know beforehand.
In a world where every sci-fi film seems to be a remake, sequel, or a rip-off, it’s refreshing to watch a sci-fi film that is able to be this refreshing original and unique. Johnson packs a lot of plot and a lot of ideas into this film, and this works for and against its advantage. While the film is so smart and well-made it leaves you with a lot of ideas and themes to think upon, it also is one that seems to fall apart, little by little, once you start to really think about all the undeveloped plot points and ideas that are at play.
I can’t really get into what these are, but they do bring the movie down from being a great sci-fi film to a very good one. With that said, Johnson knows how to make the most out of his limited budget, and packs a lot of slick visual flair that keeps the film moving and entertaining. He creates a world that so different and fascinating that its slightly disappointing that he wasn’t able to elaborate more on his concepts and ideas.
Levitt, who’s also an executive producer, gives a great performance as Joe. Having to channel the mannerisms of Willis while also making the character his own, he’s able to balance this two incredibly well. He’s also given prosthetic make-up around his forehead and nose to look more like Willis, and while this can become distracting at times, it also helps blend the two appearances together and make the plot more believable, which is definitely needed in a film as complicated as this.
Willis is, more or less, playing Bruce Willis. He does a fine job at playing Bruce Willis, but still. Also, great supporting performances from Emily Blunt and the extremely underrated Jeff Daniels give the film an extra punch.
It may not be the great film he’s likely set to make, but the movie is definitely the step forward I feel Johnson needs to have in his filmmaking career. Bold, smart, original, and memorable, Looper is likely to be talked about extensively in sci-fi and time travel film conversations for many years to come.