Sci-Fi Spotlight: Looper

looper

Directed by: Rian Johnson
Run Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: Sept 28, 2012

Time travel movies can be tricky. Are there rules? What are the consequences? How does it effect your memory? These are all questions Rian Johnson, writer and director of Looper, answers in his mind-bending science fiction flick.

Looper is oozing with style and substance, as Johnson’s directing is straightforward at times and creative at others. Take for example the scene in the coffee shop. It is shot initially as your run-in-the-mill coffee shop scene. Two men sitting opposite from each other. Both order the same meal, because, well, they are the same person. The scene hits the normal beats you’d see. The back and forth banter and the under-the-table gun grab. Then, the agents who are looking for Joe arrive and Johnson’s directing switches to a dynamic sequence of gunfire and chasing. You are almost lulled into the action by Johnson, which makes the fireworks we see all the more colorful.

That’s the kind of action directing we get from Johnson throughout, but what about the science fiction stuff? I mean, that’s why I am writing about this movie. Well, let’s start with the substance. Looper handles time travel as good as a science fiction movie can handle it. Johnson creates his own rules, as to not confuse the audience. These rules have consequences and play into the plot of the movie, as Old Joe is back in the past, so he doesn’t lose his memories of the future. Each time Joe has an action that strays from Old Joe’s path, Old Joe’s memories become fuzzier. Memories in the future aren’t really memories when you’re dealing with the present. Instead, they are more like math equations, with the more likely outcomes being easier to see than the less likely outcomes. Think Back to the Future, but with a psycho-terrorist who is wiping out the future with his telekinetic powers.

Oh, yeah, Old Joe is back to stop a kid from growing up into a monster. Not literally, but he is nicknamed “The Rainmaker,” so, um, he’s not a great guy. Killing him before he becomes who he becomes is how Old Joe saves his memories. Are you still with me? Good. I know it’s complicated, but the efficiency and effectiveness in how Johnson delivers all of these complicated ideas is magnificent. Just great writing and execution by Johnson, who was recently awarded the title of writer/director on the 8th Star Wars movie. It should be fun seeing what he comes up with for that gig. I’m sure they’ll give him a fairly short leash.

But back to Looper. I just can’t say enough how well Johnson deals with the tricky topic of time traveling. As a nerd, it makes me super giddy inside. And his stylization never feels over the top, which can happen when, well, a director thinks he really stylish – cough Zack Snyder  cough – but Johnson shows it’s not how often you stylize your flick, but when and how you stylize it. This scene is a perfect example:

Perfect. It’s just perfect. Johnson flies through twenty-five years of Joe’s life and you don’t feel like you missed a beat. You understand his transition and why he is fighting to retain what he may lose. And this sequence is superbly directed by Johnson, from bumping music, to the action scenes, to the perfectly framed shot of Joseph Gordon-Levitt with the sunset behind him. And all of this fits perfectly into the ebb and flow of the movie. Well done.

And let’s not forget about Sara, the lead female character played by the beauty that is Emily Blunt, who shows off her American accent. Johnson gives Sara a strong backbone. She is no damsel in distress, which is usually the easy way out for screenwriters. No, she is like the little sister to Ripley, toting her gun around and yelling at suspected hobos. Don’t mess with her, is what I’m saying. And stay away from her kid.

There is even a hint of horror in this one, when Seth, Joe’s friend, played by Paul Dano, is being chopped to pieces. However, we don’t see any of it happening. Instead, we see the consequences, as Old Seth slowly starts losing his body parts. Then there is the creepy and slightly horrifying scene when Old Seth collapses in the street and crawls his way to a door, only to be promptly shot in the head. It is almost a scene typical in a slasher film, except the slashing is done off screen. Sublime.

As far as science-fiction movies go, Looper is one of the best made in the 21st century. Johnson masterfully handles the complicated matter of time travel and all the rules that come along with it and incorporates excellently delivered action sequences. Johnson also gets the most out of his actors, as the whole cast delivers solid performances. Bruce Willis does some of his best work here. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt has make-up that is supposed to make him look like a younger Bruce Willis. If anything didn’t work, it may have been that, as the make-up didn’t really resemble a younger Bruce Willis, but A for effort. Emily Blunt is sexy/American/sexy again. Jeff Daniels has a great beard. And Paul Dano is a little punk.

If you haven’t seen Looper yet, what are you waiting for!? Go, now! This is not a drill. You’ll thank me later.

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