Sunday, January 06, 2013


movie review: in the picture

Looper ***
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, and Pierce Gagnon
Director: Rian Johnson
Tagline: Hunted by your future. Haunted by your past.

In a dystopian 2044, society is facing decline and the world has been thrown into turmoil. A part of the population has developed a telekinetic mutation, only to discover that there isn't much they can do with this power other than levitate coins and impress people. And while time travel technology hasn't been invented yet, it is already playing a role in the lives of a certain set of people, the loopers.

Upon its invention in the future, time travel is immediately outlawed, but that doesn't stop criminal organizations from using it to send individuals back to the past to a specified time and place, where hired assassins, known as loopers, are waiting to shoot and kill the targets and dispose of the bodies, which is something that is difficult to do in the future because of “tagging techniques and what not”. The loopers are well paid and live comfortably, but there's a catch: when the mob wants to terminate a looper's contract, they send his future self back to be killed by his past self, thus “closing the loop”. Successfully closing the loop gives the looper a hefty pay and 30 years to enjoy it; failing leads to a dire aftermath.

This is the predicament that befalls Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - a looper who works as a hit man with a syndicate in Kansas - after a new crime boss, the Rainmaker, takes over in the future and starts closing all the loops. Confronted by his older self (Bruce Willis), Joe falters, and sets off a series of events that lead to some intense and thought provoking consequences.

Helmed by Rian Johnson - who also worked with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his directorial debut, the offbeat Brick (2005) - Looper is an intriguing science fiction thriller that is both well crafted and well executed, and it helps that its acting talent is pretty solid. Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers, in spite of what the makeup artists have done to his face, and Bruce Willis continues to kick butt and is at the top of his game. The supporting cast - which includes Paul Dano as Joe's troubled best friend, Piper Perabo as a showgirl, and Emily Blunt as a single mother, raising her son Cid who is played by Pierce Gagnon - all give convincing performances. And Jeff Daniels is memorable as Joe's boss Abe, delivering some of the film's most amusing lines.

Throughout the movie it is pretty obvious that Johnson's focus is on presenting an intriguing story via an imaginative storytelling device while focusing on the characters instead of the science, and in that he succeeds. But nitpickers beware: there are details that aren't fully explained in the film and a certain degree of suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite to appreciate and enjoy the movie. While the missing information can be a bit distracting, wading through the intricacies of time travel doesn't seem to be the intent of the filmmakers. We only see a slice of the world portrayed in the film, and don't explore the minutiae that would help clarify how some of the elements in the story work. Rian Johnson may be intent on closing the loops, but he leaves enough loopholes open to ensure that the logical inconsistencies of time travel and the butterfly effect are never fully answered, but in doing so he lets the characters and the actual idea at the core of the film take center stage.

By the end, it's fairly clear that he doesn't want us to fuss about the details of time travel but wants to leave us pondering existential quandaries and thinking about the role of nature versus nurture and the futility of violence. The stylized nihilism presented in the tale that he has conjured up is both exciting and engaging; at times the developments feels like something that Christopher Nolan would concoct, and the film is an impressive addition to Johnson's resume.

All in all, Looper is a fast paced, action filled ride, fuelled by an interesting premise that ultimately leaves the viewer with an invitation to contemplate the role of destiny and free will and the cycle of violence … given that you don't get bogged down by the technicalities that are blatantly skirted by its narrative (in which case you might be left with an impulse to watch it all over again, if only to try and piece the whole thing together). But if you give in to its ideas and accept its “cloudy” and “messy” premise, then Looper promises a satisfying payoff.

– Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 6th January, 2013

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