TIFF 2012 Review: LOOPER

PrintE-mail Written by Katherine McLaughlin

Review: Looper / Cert: 15 / Director: Rian Johnson / Screenplay: Rian Johnson / Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Tracie Thoms / Release Date: September 28th

In this high concept sci-fi thriller the principal players are both the same character (Joe), with Joseph Gordon-Levitt taking the role of his younger self and Bruce Willis playing the older and wiser version. Writer/Director Rian Johnson takes the concept of time travel, mixes it with a film noir feel and adds a gangster style narrative that leaps and bounds in unexpected directions.

In the future, when criminals want to dispose of people they send them 30 years back to the past with a time limit on their lives. Loopers (hit-men) are assigned to take out the future garbage when their time is up, the twist being they have to face themselves and pull the trigger. Each mark appears out of the blue in a specific time and location with their face covered for the Loopers to kill and close the loop.  If you are not strong enough to end your older self the punishment is severe.

When older Joe overpowers his younger self he sets a deadly, race against the clock game in motion with a storyline that pits the two against each other and introduces a mother and child into their violent head-to-head. Older Joe is intent on staying alive for the sake of a loved one and when he’s given the opportunity to end the infamous assassin called ‘The Rainmaker’, whose death he believes will allow him to make it back to his reality, he sets out to murder him at a young age. This of course, brings The Terminator to mind – time travel to alter the future and stop atrocities – but to reveal any more would be to ruin the film.

Looper looks tremendous throughout as it moves location and time. Young Joe’s world is one of overindulgence in drugs (taken through the eye in droplet form), fast cars and women. The final act of the film, where a face- off between the two Joes occurs in a desolate Kansas field, is timeless in appearance compared to the noir metropolis that Joe inhabits. There are hints of Dark City also, with the henchmen who pluck their victims away from their existence wearing similar attire to the mysterious Strangers.

The dialogue is comparable in style to Johnson’s breakthrough film Brick, with some great, humourours one-liners throughout. The performances are all top notch with Gordon-Levitt perfecting Willis’ mannerisms and Willis adding a much needed tenderness to the well-drawn character of Joe. Special mention goes to child actor Pierce Gagnon who delivers sweetness and sinister in equal measure.

You’ll want to go back and watch it again to pick it apart, and a second viewing should be well rewarded.  The strength of Looper lies in its intricacy, ambition and the questions it poses about a predetermined path. Johnson wraps it all up nicely in a darkly imagined, blue tinted world. “Loop closed baby.”

Expected Rating: 8 out of 10

Actual Rating:


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