With the world avenged and the city of Gotham saved, the money focused summer blockbuster season has come to an end. What follows is a chance for award seekers, Indie flicks and burgeoning directors to make a name for themselves during the fall period. These characteristics are something that the sci-fi neo-noir Looper has in abundance. It is a film which seems to have suddenly shown up out of no where. But does it hold up to its tag of ‘a 21st century The Matrix’ or does its questionable title match the content laid within?
Looper sees writer-director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, Rian Johnson once again collaborate with in-demand actor Joseph Gordon Levitt. Set in Kansas in the year 2042, the film follows Joe, a ‘Looper’ who eliminates his targets in an age where time travel has yet to be invented. His targets are sent back thirty years from a time where murder is practically impossible and where time travel illegally exists, which is utilised by criminal organisations. There is only one rule: never let your target escape. But when Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back and escapes the clutches of this clean and ritualistic style of assassination, Levitt must track him down in order to ‘close the loop’.
The film starts off in the manner you would expect from a world that has been conjured originally from Rian Johnson‘s imagination. The breadth of this dystopian Kansas and the cultural and economic factors within are all explained in a traditionally noir style – through a voice-over of Levitt’s moody Joe. This voice-over is, in a sense, making things easier for the audience which is never a good thing. However, with the vast array of different ideas and time travelling assassination at the forefront of the story, this aspect gives the film some freedom to breath and to be able to focus on the main chunk of its narrative.
The freedom and imagination involved also brings the best out of the actors on screen. With Levitt plastered in prosthetic chins and cheeks reminiscent of a young Bruce Willis, he balances the role with the cold malice of a hired killer, with the afflictions that plague him. This is clear when he meets Emily Blunt’s character Sara and it is Blunt who truly grabs our attention when she is first introduced. Accompanied with a southern drawl and tough exterior, she is a tough character whilst still attaining femininity. She is never swayed in getting what she wants.
Stylistically, the film is distinctive without being overbearing. Camera shots whirl, twist and turn with glee, really implementing the disorientating effect that time travel or even recreational drug use has on the perspective of the protagonists on screen. Also, the selected use of music and silence really balances well. Some scenes just use sound effects, increasing the tension more than a low rumble of dread ever could.
Despite the film’s apparent complexity and sci-fi terminology, the message here is simple and it is aimed at us, the audience: would you kill your future self for monetary gain, in turn, learning your fate? Of course this is all hypothetical but from personal experience, it creates debate and you reflect on your own humanity whilst struggling with this idea. This debate is only a testament to what has been put onto celluloid.
Rian Johnson has created a multi-layered story with plenty of imagination to back it up, working both as a neo-noir and sci-fi action thriller. The film does have niggles but when time travel is at the center of a narrative it is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to get it perfect. What Looper does deliver is awe-striking excitement, great characters and most importantly, it makes the audience think, which is heads above many recent bog standard sci-fi fodder. It is quite easily one of the slickest films of the year.
Looper (2012), directed by Rian Johnson, is distributed in the UK by Entertainment One, Certificate 15.