Thursday, October 4, 2012


Get out your time-machine and future guns, we're reviewing Looper!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a great Bruce Willis! And Bruce WIllis plays a great Bruce Willis!
In the future of 2044, time travel hasn't been invented yet, but in 30 years, it will be. When the mob wants someone gone, they send them back in time and use people called Loopers. Joe(Joseph Gordon-Levitt) leads a pretty successful life of drugs and loose women as a looper. But when his future self comes back in time(Bruce Willis) and gets away, young Joe has to kill old Joe before he himself gets killed by the mob!

I really enjoyed Looper. The biggest reason I enjoyed it is becuase Looper is a Sci-Fi Noir.  They didn't advertise it as that, but it damn sure is one. I know what you're thinking, "Josh, you noir-obsessed junkie, you're on so much black n' grey(what we call noir in the know) that you're seeing it everywhere!" I know, I know, but stay with me here.
Joe is a certified badass with his "blunderbuss".
Joe is not a good person. He's a killer and a drug addict and he'll do almost anything to get what he wants. Old Joe doesn't get any better.  And this is our protagonist, a not-a-good-guy. In fact, No one is especially moral in this movie. Like any good noir, they're all just varying shades of grey.  Joe's a killer, all his "friends" are killers, his only love interest is a hooker named Suzy(Piper Perabo) who is fairly content with her line of work.  Abe(Jeff Daniels) who runs the Loopers and the city, can be generous or cruel depending on the case, but really, he's just trying to run his business. Even Sara(Emily Blunt), who Joe meets while tracking down his older self, seems good natured but she's got some serious skeletons in her closet. And not to spoil anything, but it's not a happy ending for all of them.

Then there's the dilemma. My definition of any good noir is: a character is provided with two extremely shitty choices. Whatever that character picks, shapes him and the narrative. This is set up perfectly between the two Joes. You never know which one to root for. They're each trying to do what they think is best, and they both have their own reasons. Should young Joe help his older self out and risk getting killed, or worse, or should he put the old man down, not heed his warning and continue to live his life of depravity? Should old Joe try to fix the timeloop, get back what's his, and risk screwing it up? Or should he lay down and die before he creates a self-fulfilling prophesy?
Emily Blunt has a great southern slur!

It's a great set-up, and a masterful bit of noir. We should expect no less from Rian Johnson, the writer of Brick and The Brothers Bloom(which, if you haven't seen those GET ON THAT).  The movie is incredibly suspensful, and from the beginning they place a question in your mind with a timer attached. As the movie gets closer and closer to it's end, you can hear the timer ticking down and the question getting bigger and bigger, HOW WILL THIS END?!! I think some people may not like the ending, but I thought it fit. Remember, there are no happy endings in noir.

But this is also a sci-fi noir, and it's the sci-fi aspect that really makes it. The concept they start with is great on it's own, but they keep twisting and adding on to it, which I love. "Ok, we've done this, now how can we think to change it? How can we completely break it?"  It has a great moody atmosphere in which there are high tech elements surrounded by the dregs of a downward spiraling society. They have flying machines, shiny interfaces, cool guns, and telekinesis. It's just enough future tech to make you think it's the future, without thinking it's too far-fetched. It's a world filled with tech, but it's also dirty and corrupt and nothing works the way you want it to.

Looper also has a ton of great visuals.  The best film-noirs(no I'm not going to stop talking about it) really experiment with camera techniques and the way they present the narrative.  There are some masterful shots here, and some realyl cool m

I wish Looper was perfect, but unfortunately it drags in the middle.  Not to say it's bad or boring, it just completly stops when you wish they'd get back to running and shooting and having mind-warping good times. Luckily, the narrative is character driven, leading to some marvelous acting, and all the character's motives make logical sense and stay within their rights as that character.  There's also some trouble with the time-travel logic, which you would expect in a movie of this kind. It's not so logic-breakingly bad that it busts the narrative to the point of Prometheus or The Dark Knight Rises, and I don't want to get too much into it for risk of spoiling the story(maybe in another post), but there are a few things that shouldn't make sense.

Speaking of characters, this has such a great cast. Everyone is phenomenal in their respective roles from Jeff Daniels to Emily Blunt to Noah Segan(who was also in Brick), but the star of course is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who does a spot on Bruce Willis. You can tell he really got WIllis down from the way he speaks to the look in his eyes, to the specific mannerisms. It doesn't hurt that he's wearing a buttload of prosthetics either. JGL also narrates bits and pieces in the movie, and I really wish there was more of it. Not just because he's got the noir slur down pat, but because he only narrates what we need to be told. I feel like narration should be more unified and have more character, or else it will feel like, well, you're only narrating the parts that need to be told.  It's not overused like some other narrations, but I wish they had used it better, or even also had Bruce WIllis narrating just for a mind-trip.

Another problem I had is that it wasn't completely young Joe(or even Joe's) story. The focus kept switching from young Joe to old Joe, to Sara and her kid. It's not so bad that it takes away from either of their stories, and it does feel like an ensemble noir, but like the narration, I wish it was more unified.

I've been talking about noir this whole time but I've completly forgotten to mention that it's also surprisignly funny at points. It's perfect at tugging at the heartstrings, but then there come these ridiculously funny moments that lighten up the narrative. It reminds me a lot of the humor in Brick.  Kid Blue(Noah Segan) is a Gat man for the mob, but he's a continuous fuck-up.  He has this intense stare down with Joe and then all of a sudden gets conked in the back of the head by a door in a great bit of slap-schtick comedy. Also, there's time-travel humor, which is always fun.

Looper is a great sci-fi noir. I'm delightfully surprised that we get one of those this year.  The sci-fi action is fun, the narrative is engaging, and the character acting, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt doing a spot-on young Bruce Willis, is a joy.  Anyone who says JGL doesn't deserve an acting award has no idea what he's talking about. It's not perfect, and there's not as much action as I thought there'd be, but Looper is easily one of the best movies of the year.

THE GOOD: Great time-travel concept, great noir, engaging narrative, funny, great acting, very suspensful.

THE BAD: Kind of drags in the middle, some of the time-travel logic is iffy.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ See it! Multiple times! Then buy it on DVD/Blu-Ray!  You will probably want to see it at least twice just to catch everything again. It's a great movie, one of the best of the year.

MOVIES LIKE IT: Brick, On Dangerous Ground, Drive, Inception, The Source Code, TIme Crimes

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: The scene with young Joe and Old Joe talking in the bar. It's a great bit of suspense and sci-fi of how young Joe got old Joe to come there, they have some great funny dialogue, it's amazing to see JGL mimic Bruce Willis to his face, but more than all that, is the noir aspect. These are both the same characters, who both want conflicting things, and neither really cares what the other wants. Old Joe tells young Joe how selfish he is, how he only cares about himself, but he's exactly the same way. They're both the same character. Young Joe doesn't care what old Joe is trying to do, he's just trying to get his life back, and Old Joe doesn't care about young Joe's life because he just wants to get his life back. This is the best kind of noir.

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