By Al Lim, Yale-NUS ’19 – See bio
Looper by Rian Johnson (who also directed Brick in 2004) is a masterfully crafted movie. It cannot and should not be pigeon-holed and limited to a genre. It takes your mind for a quick spin, then goes into thriller/action mode, and at the end feels like a humanistic drama. You get tied to this chronological bullet, fired by Johnson himself, at the onset and you fly. You fly through dimensions, hovering between 2044 and 2074.
You get thrown through loops, watching loops, ridding loops.
Part of what makes Looper so convincing despite a classically unconvincing subject matter is the cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the role of “young” Joe. We learn that he is a looper, and his job is to kill people. Not just anyone, however, he is assigned to kill people that the crime syndicate sends back through time from thirty years in the future so that they are gone without a trace. Time travel is banned in the future, and thus, the mob closes the loop when they feel it necessary. They do this by sending a looper back in time to be killed, incidentally by himself. Everything is going well until Bruce Willis appears on a tarp in the middle of Kansas fresh from the future: the “old” Joe.
We then have that awkward scene where there are two “Joe’s” sitting across each other, yet having different motives and ambitions. Johnson does not linger in the psychological or philosophical mumbo jumbo of time travel, but presses on with the plot.
The plot unfolds in the rank streets of a dystopian metropolis with the mob hunting down the Joe’s, while later developing in a Kansas farm with Sara (Emily Blunt) and her child. These provide contrasting destinations existing within a futuristic framework – simply a visual feast.
Emotional appeal is rendered with complex characters with different motives. Throughout the movie, it was easy enough to pinpoint the antagonists, but the protagonists were human too. The multi-dimensionality of the characters complemented the intriguing plot and premise of the movie. They had chemistry; it worked pretty well.
Looper lacks the gaping loopholes that other “time-travel” movies have in abundance. It provides an involved narrative that engages the audience on many levels. The writing ensures a careful punctuation of taste and wit among the larger, action-filled background. The best of all was the ending. What an ending.
Rotten Tomatoes: 8.1/10, 93%
My Personal Score: 8.6/10
Personal anecdote: On my way out of the theater in Siam Paragon, I heard someone comment, “I think there was just too much and he (Johnson) didn’t pull it together.” I beg to differ. I think he closed all loops.