Movie Review: Looper
By Matthew Huntley
October 1, 2012
Joe makes his choice and moves on, but he soon finds his next kill is his older self (Bruce Willis), who also manages to escape. When the two Joes meet up at a remote diner (there’s a nifty way Young Joe sends a message to Old Joe), the older one explains the future’s crime circuit has been taken over by a man known only as the Rainmaker, who intends to close all loops. During Old Joe’s seizure, the Rainmaker’s henchmen murder his wife (Summer Qing) and he’s now on a mission to prevent that from happening.
Where the film goes from here, I cannot say without giving away crucial details, but two more important characters are introduced, a young woman named Sara (Emily Blunt) and a little boy she’s raising named Cid (Pierce Gagnon). They live on a sugar cane farm and become of increasing interest to both Young and Old Joe, whose differing motivations force them to turn on each other.
I mentioned Looper has the complexity and depth of a classic noir. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of its writer-director, Rian Johnson, who made the fantastic Brick, which reinvigorated the noir genre with a murder-mystery set in a high school. Now, with a bigger budget, Johnson combines noir with science fiction but avoids one of latter’s common pitfalls by assuming the audience cares more about action and presentation than character and story. If anything, Johnson’s approach is the opposite. He exhibits patience and allows scenes to play out fully. Nothing feels rushed and the drama and emotion build to a point where they take precedence over the still-effective chase scenes, violence and special effects.
Johnson also sidesteps narrative overkill. For instance, there’s a scene where a pertinent character is eliminated but he doesn’t bother showing us the obvious because he knows we’re smart enough to put the pieces together ourselves. That’s a mark of not only a lean, economic storyteller but one who trusts his audience.
Some critics have called Looper “groundbreaking” and have written “there’s nothing like it.” I wouldn’t go that far, because the movie is a lot like others of its kind, especially in regards to its time travel premise. It does stand out, however, for the way it balances all of its qualities and becomes, simply, an engaging story, one that’s intelligent and surprisingly heartfelt. It has relentless momentum and is always moving forward, right up until the end, when it fades out on just the right note, leaving us touched and thinking about our own purpose and mortality. That doesn’t make Looper a groundbreaker, especially for a science fiction movie, but it is a rarity, and a welcome one at that.