‘Looping’ Sci-Fi to New Levels

Courtesy of TriStar Films

The genre collision between science fiction and time travel hasn’t been a consistently well-made mash-up for quite some time in Hollywood. More often these genres would work on separate filmmaking levels, but lately there haven’t been too many filmmakers that have made their attempts to execute both genres in one movie. Fortunately, however, that feat has been accomplished in writer-director Rian Johnson’s third feature film, “Looper.”

Set in the year 2044, time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it is used illegally by the mob 30 years into the future. If they want someone in their organization dead and to erase the trace of their existence in the future time period, they send them back in time to the aforementioned year to be disposed of by specialized assassins called “loopers.”

One of the top assassins of this craft, named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), lives a life of luxury from this job. However, his world flips upside down when he’s forced to “close his loop” by having to kill his future self (Bruce Willis). Old Joe quickly escapes from the defenseless clutches of Young Joe, and they are both soon pursued by the mob.

While that may be just the main setup for this film, I really shouldn’t carry on any further, because “Looper” is a definitive example for a film that the less you know about it, the more you’ll like it. Even for me, a person who has tried his best to avoid most of the film’s trailers, I’m still surprised at how multi-layered this film was in the best ways imaginable.

With this film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to show why he’s one of best young actors in Hollywood today. Not only is his commitment to character strong as always, but the charismatic presence he has on screen is developed to even further levels in terms of emoting to the scene’s specific tones.

Furthermore, props are due to the makeup artist team for designing spot-on facial prosthetics to make Gordon-Levitt look like a young Bruce Willis, in addition to the former’s remarkable ability to channel the latter’s mannerisms, too.

Bruce Willis has had a high tally of hit-or-miss movies he’s starred in for the past decade, but this is his best performance in quite some time. His approach to the Old Joe reminded me of how he played Butch Coolidge in “Pulp Fiction,” and it’s not just because they both wore similar brown suede jackets.

Instead, it contrasts to how both characters are men put in morally difficult situations that usually involve strong instances of violence, but they both have rightful cause for their actions. From all the films that I’ve seen Willis in, I really wish that he’d stick to playing characters like these.

Highlighting the supporting cast are names that include Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano, all of whom work well with the material they’re given, even if some of them are in the film for no longer than 10 to 15 minutes. In that bunch, Blunt is certainly the standout as a single mother who, in addition to her son Cid, holds some of the film’s most lucrative secrets.

However, Rian Johnson is the true mastermind behind this film’s thrilling journey. In his third feature attempt, Johnson has reached his highest filmmaking craft since his astonishing debut feature “Brick.” Johnson devotes so much time to mature plots and deepen character backgrounds in the majority of his films, and here he continues to show that aspect in a nearly impeccable fashion.

From a directing standpoint, Johnson creates a vision of the future that is a smart contradiction between the wealthy and poor. The film’s primary metropolis setting is one that looks great from a distant glance, but is really a seedy underworld of homelessness and crime galore.

Johnson also does a phenomenal job handling the film’s many action sequences, which are all fast-paced and abrupt in their timing, but still manage to both consistently surprise and have you in awe from Steve Yedlin’s glorious cinematography.

With only minor flaws lying in underutilized characters and the second half of the film falling a bit shy of being as strong as the first, “Looper” is still one of the best science fiction movies in recent memory. Not many films like this can manage the ability to be this entertaining, ambitious and even thought-provoking, so don’t pass up the opportunity to see this thrilling gem.

Final Rating: 4.5/5