Looper Will Throw You for a Loop
- Friday, September 28, 2012
DVD Release Date: December 31, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: September 28, 2012
Rating: R (for some strong violence, strong language, some sexuality/nudity, and drug content)
Genre: Sci-Fi Drama
Run Time: 118 min
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo
In today’s ever-evolving technological landscape, most high-concept movies are so busy trying to push the visual boundaries of what’s never been seen that they ignore the techniques that have made moviemaking great, even timeless. Looper is an exhilarating exception to that trend. I can’t tell you if it’ll become a classic or not, but man, it sure feels like one.
Beyond the cool conceptual hook (I’ll get to that in a second), what fuels this Sci-Fi/Noir mash-up is an attention to and slick execution of an enduring film language. Absent are shaky hand-held shots, gliding steadicams, or swooping digitially-enhanced fly-throughs. It’s as if writer/director Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom) basically said, "If we can’t capture something with the camera on a set of sticks, dolly, or the occasional jib/crane then we’re not going to shoot it."
So what does that all mean? It means Looper isn’t some generically-produced, loosely captured, thrown together flick that gets "found" in the editing room. Rather, it has been meticulously and artfully crafted. This isn’t just a story told; it’s a vision realized.
It’s 2042, roughly thirty years before time travel will be invented. From that time three decades in the future (i.e. 2072), the mob sends a person they want dead back to a designated location in 2042 where a hitman waits to kill the person instantly on arrival. This is an efficient way for the future mob to dispose of its enemies without a trace. The hitmen are called loopers.
But here's the catch: when the people sent back for assassination arrive in 2042, they do so with bags over their heads. Since the kills are instantaneous, a looper will occasionally come to find that, after the bag is pulled off, he’s just killed his future self. This is called "closing the loop," and while a looper is paid handsomely for doing so it’s the one big price he pays, sealing a finite end to his life – not to mention the morbid guilt of having killed himself. If a looper tries to subvert the process, the present-day mob will track down and kill both versions of him. This story follows the closing of one of those loops.
It’s also much more than that. This widely-publicized concept would be enough to drive a chase story between a Young and Old Self, but Johnson adds a whole other layer. He complicates the story and characters, as well as the moralities this movie is clearly wrestling with.
While this isn’t the first blend of science fiction and film noir we’ve seen (Blade Runner is a notable forerunner), Looper is a specific variation to the style. Most incarnations have been dark, wet, and dystopian. Looper certainly has its seedy side but is less gritty, and as a world feels more evolved from ours than some dire Orwellian police state. Its sci-fi touches are organic to a near-future (as are the early 21st-century elements that still linger), and the noir is established largely through lighting and camera techniques (as they were back in the 40s) and not in excessively designed set pieces.
From anti-heroes and femme fatales to criminal riff raff, the archetypes come almost exclusively from noir. The joint characterization of Young and Old Joe by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises) and Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom) respectively is a fascinating collaboration of distinguished individual performances.
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