Sunday, February 10, 2013

Looper: Time Travel Hurts My Brain

Movie Review: Looper

Director: Rian Johnson

Reviewed: 10 February 2013

jamesintexas rating-- ***

Rian Johnson's "Looper" is a confounding, innovative, and dazzling work featuring Bruce Willis as Old Joe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, caught in a time travel plot initiated by the crime syndicate of the future.  A looper is an assassin who wipes out people sent back from the future, since in the future, disposing of a body is nearly impossible.  Loopers are paid well, expected to be at the rendezvous point, gun in hand, prepared to shoot anyone who comes back in time.  When the bad guys want to close the loop, they send the older version of their looper back to be killed by his younger self.

Part of "Looper's" fun is seeing the plot unfold and Johnson's narrative time-splitting, so the less said, the better.  The make-up uniting Gordon-Levitt and Willis is at times distracting, though the movements, growl of the voice, and the overall look unites them.  Johnson's strength in this film is in painting a wide canvas with many details around the edges.  Jeff Daniels shows up as Abe, a world-weary crime boss; Paul Dano is a looper named Seth, forced to confront himself with torturous results (and perhaps my favorite special effects shots of the whole film).  Emily Blunt carries the second half of the film which involves a small Kansas farm house, and that plot line is certainly fresh and innovative.  I had no idea where it was going.  The imagery is strong: Joe, standing in an empty cornfield, with a tarp next to some corn stalks, waiting patiently with his gun.

At one point, Old Joe acknowledges that he doesn't "want to talk about time travel...we'll be diagramming shit on napkins for hours," and that kind of confidence in the story-telling propels "Looper" though I still don't know what to make of the ending and I'm not sure I followed every twist and turn.  Yet, it captured my imagination, and nearly a month afterwards, I still wonder and come back to the film, which means another viewing is soon in my future.  That is a good sign, when a movie won't leave you.  Can you fight yourself when the older version of you essentially knows everything that the younger version will do?  Some of the special effects shots do not work, and I felt very disoriented and confused most of the film.  In fact, I still do.  "Looper" is a film that I admired more than loved, yet I'm willing to return to it and see if the story moves me more on a second viewing.  Johnson's "Brick" was a wonderfully inventive transplanting of the detective noir style to a Southern California high school, and this film wrestles with time travel and family in a way that I haven't seen before.

A film that's likable and worth your time.

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