If I ever had to pick one genre as a favorite it would definitely be science fiction. I don’t mean “sci-fi” which puts people in space and throws explosions at them for 90 minutes (not that that’s all bad), I mean good old fashioned science fiction. I want to see a film that juxtaposes thought provoking ideas upon a futuristic background filled with interesting characters. There’s been a dearth of good science fiction lately, with Prometheus being the only other recent offering, but with the release of Looper I hope we get a new renaissance of intelligent science fiction films for years to come.
In the distant future the technology to allow time travel will have been developed, although barely anyone uses it due to its insane cost. The mafia finds a use for it by sending people they want killed to a predetermined point 30 years in the past to be killed by a “looper”, a specialized assassin. Lately the loopers have been forced to “close their loop”, which means to kill their future selves in order to cancel their contract. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has just been sent his future self to kill (Bruce Willis), but he escapes in order to track down a new mob boss from the future, The Rainmaker, and kill him as a child so he will never come to power. Joe needs to find him and kill him before he does irreparable damage to the timeline.
The first 30 minutes or so has the audience playing catch up to the future. Information about how things work in this new world and the society that fills it is constantly being thrown at you, but it’s easy to follow. The rules of the time traveling are also set up during this section and they are simple enough to not make your brain melt.
Once old Joe (Willis) shows up is when the action starts. We find out what Joe’s character has been up to in the thirty years past the current time frame and it’s interesting and more than a little tragic. We discover that his future wife will be killed by this Rainmaker guy and old Joe wants to kill him in the present so he won’t be around to take his love from him. The problem is that The Rainmaker is a small child in this time period, so old Joe goes around killing kids he suspects are possible candidates. It's pretty effed up.
It’s dark and violent, and not at all what I expected from the trailers. This is a good thing. The script takes twists and turns that weren’t even hinted at in the previews, and in the end we have a smartly paced, intelligently written and boldly aggressive vision of the future that pulls no punches.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt performs admirably in the lead, even though the make-up to give the illusion of looking like a young Bruce Willis makes him appear to be part ape from certain angles. Bruce Willis turns in a low key performance as what is essentially the villain of the piece even though his motivations aren’t completely in the black. Emily Blunt is serviceable in her part as a potential love interest for young Joe, but its little Pierce Gagnon as her son, Cid, who steals the show. I swear this kid must’ve come from the same petrie dish where they grew the Fanning girls, because he is one of the most fantastic child actors I’ve seen in years. He elevates the last half of the movie to a whole other level.
Special FX are pretty bang on for the most part, the action is fast and furious and the entire experience is fun and thrilling. Director Rian Johnson (Brick) keeps things moving regardless if it’s a character moment, plot point or brutal action scene. I would like to see what he does next because his storytelling capabilities have been steadily improving with each film. He also has a keen eye for visuals that wasn’t prevalent in his previous effort due to budget constraints.
Smart and packing an emotional punch lacking from most science fiction films these days, Looper comes out ahead of the pack as not only a breath of fresh air for the genre, but as one of the best movie experiences I’ve had so far this year.
4.5 out of 5