Film Review : Looper
● By Justin Buettner
Set in the year 2044, Looper follows the story of Joe, an assassin for the mob of the future. The mob owns a time machine and uses it to send people back in time to be killed and disposed of with no trace of a crime in their time. Attached to the victims are packs of silver for the assassin's payment. Things go bad when Joe finds himself with the task of assassinating his future self. His older version escapes setting off a massive manhunt for both the present and future Joe. To complicate matters more, future Joe starts a manhunt of his own, to kill the head of the future mob who currently is just a ten year old boy.
Rian Johnson, the writer and director of this sci-fi film, packs his movie with moral dilemmas and thought provoking issues. Looper at the very least is interesting. The problem I have with the film is it tries to take on too many ideas and pack in too many plot twists for its own good. The movie, as interesting as it may be, fails to hit the emotional notes it needs to because it just doesn't have enough time to fully explore the characters, plot, and ideas it presents.
The bulk of the movie follows the present day Joe played by Joseph Levitt-Gordon. While following this character helps set up the plot I couldn't help thinking that the more emotionally charged journey clearly rested with the older version of Joe played by Bruce Willis. The older Joe's actions were motivated by a villain the audience did not see and a love interest that is rarely seen in the film. Because these two elements we not properly set up the importance and impact of older Joe’s actions are sadly diminished. In addition the moral quandary older Joe faces, having to kill children to try and avoid a dark future, was the most compelling conflict in the movie but unfortunately the movie does not have the screen time to spare on the struggle the character faces having to carrying out his mission.
Tackling the subject of time traveling is not an easy task. keeping the story simple when using time travel tends to yield the best time travel movies. When stories get bogged down adding details in time travel plots, it often creates a new set of questions and plot holes for the audience to think about. Looper definitely over complicates its time travel plot, but it manages to avoid some of the complications by making the moral dilemmas more pressing than the time travel logic. Just the same I couldn't help thinking that future organized crime would find a more profitable way to use a time machine than just for simple executions. Heck, Biff from Back to the Future made more profitable use from time machines that the mob in this film.
Looper is chalked full of great performances. There is not a bad performance in the movie. Even the child actor is convincing and spooky, in his role. The strength of the performances also help to off-set some of the silly dialogue and plot points of the movie. The make that is used to try and make Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like Bruce Willis was handled well as it wasn’t distracting, but I am unsure if the make up really made it any more believable that these two people look alike.
Ultimately Looper is a strange mix of Carrie and the Terminator. Science fiction fans will find the movie interesting and while I liked it's unconventional ending, I think most audiences will find the ending to be a letdown. There is a lot of talent on display and the film will entertain and give people something to talk about. I respect Rian Johnson’s ambitiousness in his storytelling but I think he would have been better served choosing a few ideas and fully developing them instead of overloading his film. Looper is a good movie, but not the instant classic that some are claiming it to be.
Films like Looper -- Carrie, Terminator, and Back to the Future part 2
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.