Looper reviews

Mister Tee
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Re: Looper reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:59 pm

Variety

Looper
By Peter Debruge

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars in Rian Johnson's futuristic actioner 'Looper.'

Old Joe Bruce Willis Joe Joseph Gordon-Levitt Sara Emily Blunt Seth Paul Dano Kid Blue Noah Segan Suzie Piper Perabo Abe Jeff Daniels Cid Pierce Gagnon Old Joe's Wife Summer Qing
A time-travel twister that pits a ruthless hit man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) against his future self (Bruce Willis), "Looper" marks a huge leap forward for Rian Johnson ("Brick"). His grandly conceived, impressively mounted third feature shows a giddy, geeky interest in science-fiction, then forces it into the back seat and lets the multidimensional characters drive. In a genre infamous for loose ends, this thinking man's thriller marshals action, romance and a dose of very dark comedy toward a stunning payoff. Reception should be solid, not stellar, with a long cult afterlife.
In the future, mobsters dispose of unwanted rivals by sending them 30 years back to the past, before time travel has been developed, and into the hands of a team of young screw-ups called "loopers" to do the killing. Why loopers? Because sooner or later, these live-in-the-moment assassins will wind up killing their time-displaced selves -- or "closing the loop." They're rewarded, handsomely, and life is sweet until … well, until time travel is invented and they get booted back to face the barrel of their own blunderbusses.

You don't have to be Albert Einstein to know that sending assassins back to the past is a bad idea -- not for a movie, but as a system of gangland garbage disposal. Kick your unwanted trash into the future, and you're rid of it, but blast a career killer back in time, and there's a pretty strong chance the death-marked assassin will irrevocably alter the "future" from which he came if he can manage to escape.

That loophole, big enough to drive a plot through, is precisely what makes Johnson's crazy idea work. Joe, played by Gordon-Levitt with pale blue contacts, puffy lips and a fake schnozz that takes some getting used to, is pretty unconflicted about killing strangers from the future, himself included. But when Older Joe arrives in the form of grizzled action star Willis, his 30-years-younger self flinches just long enough for the guy to get the upper hand, knocking Joe unconscious before disappearing into his own past.

Now, here's where things get fun for the kind of sci-fi crowd that likes to diagram and debate the logic of time-travel stories. You'd think that Older Joe has the upper hand, able to anticipate the way his younger self reacted, but as cat-and-mouse games go, the young punk has a distinct advantage, since the slightest injury to Gordon-Levitt's body travels forward to appear as scar tissue on Willis.

The pic demonstrates just how this works with Joe's sidekick Seth (Paul Dano). After purposefully allowing his older self to escape (or "letting his loop run" in the parlance), Seth hides out at Joe's place -- not a smart idea, considering that Joe prizes money over friendship, and doesn't put up much resistance before surrending Seth to the syndicate chief (Jeff Daniels, whose blood runs cold behind a bearded smile). What follows is a truly disturbing death scene, as Seth's loop (Frank Brennan) tries to hop the nearest train, only to see 30-year-old injuries start to appear all over his body, the result of the younger Seth being sadistically tortured offscreen.

Kill the kid and his loop goes, too -- a rule that puts Older Joe in the awkward position of simultaneously having to run from, and protect, his younger self. Trickier from a storytelling standpoint is the fact that auds don't meet Willis until the first-act break, at which point the film must rapidly supply a romantic backstory for a character who, in the present reality, technically does not yet exist. So, while Gordon-Levitt's Joe is a heartless hustler, Willis' older-and-wiser counterpart brings soul to the character, having discovered -- and had to watch die -- the love of his life.

Willis can play the tough guy in his sleep, but it's the character's tenderness that makes possible the ruthlessness with which he sets about trying to change his own fate. Thirty years after the story takes place, a mysterious figure called "the Rainmaker" has risen to power, and in classic "Terminator" fashion, Older Joe has the rare chance to strangle the monster in his crib. His only clues are the kid's birthdate and mythology: They say he has a synthetic jaw and that he watched his mom die.

While Willis single-mindedly begins to hunt down and execute 10-year-olds, Gordon-Levitt tracks down a lead that points him toward an isolated Kansas farmhouse where Sara (Emily Blunt, stunning enough to suggest a new future for Joe) and son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) have cut themselves off from modern society, leading to the inevitable confrontation between the two Joes -- and a twist that not only rewards the intricate character work of the pic's laggy middle hour but beautifully ties everything together.

Complicated as it all sounds, Johnson paves the way with wall-to-wall voiceover. As in "Brick," the script's well-tooled lines are stilted enough to sound cool, and angled in the direction of comedy, relying on expressions less suggestive of a sci-fi future than they are of vintage film noir. Face-to-face with himself, young Joe hisses, "Why don't you do what old men do, and die?" For both thesps, the challenging roles amount to playing near-nihilism, while also subtly absorbing one another's characteristics.

The two actors look nothing alike, of course, which wouldn't be a big deal, if Johnson hadn't tried so hard to force a resemblance, burying Gordon-Levitt's striking mug under prosthetics (the most distracting being an application meant to simulate Willis' unique beak) instead of simply trusting auds to care enough about Joe to see past the differences. Still, Johnson steps up to the pic's practical challenges nicely, balancing high-caliber action with intricate character work. The support team leverages Louisiana to suggest a 30-year-distant Kansas (and Shanghai for locations 30 years farther down the line) without requiring too many effects, though the digital work looks convincing when needed. The loopers' signature weapon, essentially a sawed-off shotgun with a Steampunk twist, is evocative of both past and future. If the imperfect yet promising "Brick" teased an exciting new voice, then "Looper" suggests big things ahead.

Mister Tee
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Looper reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 08, 2012 3:49 pm

Screen Daily

Looper
6 September, 2012


Dir/scr: Rian Johnson. US. 2012. 118mins


A spectacularly cool time-twisting sci-fi thriller, Rian Johnson’s Toronto opener wonderfully shows that smarts and action-adventure can go hand-in-hand. Breezily freewheeling, visually stunning and impressively complex, Looper is brimming with ideas, action and heart as well as having the star power to click with audiences.

Looper may prove too thoughtful to fully engage with fans of all-action fare, but in truth it has the perfect balance of smarts and explosions, witty dialogue and impressively staged action scenes, and great performances and high concept.
Writer/director Johnson – who made Brick and The Brothers Bloom – keeps the audience on its toes with a resolutely smart script that changes pace and direction at ease, heads into dark, disturbing, territory yet never loses track of the rules of its genre.

Time-travel sci-fi thrillers are always the movies that tend to leave filmmakers open to fan-boy ridicule, and while at times Looper heads into interweaving corners that it finds hard to get out of, its sheer force of intelligence – and a healthy dose of set-piece action sequences – means it is also gripping and provocative.

In the mid-21st century, time travel has been invented but ruled highly illegal, but is being exploited by the criminal fraternity. When gangs of the future want someone killed, they pop him in a time travel device and send him back 30 years into the past where the victim is assassinated by hired assassins called ‘loopers’.

One such looper is Joe Simmons (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt), one of the best in the business who waits patiently on the edge of a corn field with his ‘blunderbuss’-style weapon in hand in the year 2047 to efficiently kill whichever masked victim is transported to him. After dumping the body he heads back to the city where he is saving his payments for the future…he has plans to travel, but is enjoying the lifestyle far too much.

The only retirement plan for loopers is if their boss – actually from the future but overseeing hits back in the past - Abe (a charismatic Jeff Daniels) decides they are surplus to needs and their victim turns out to be their future self. Joe sees what happens when a looper decides not to go through with a contract when his close friend Seth (Paul Dano in a telling cameo) gets on the wrong side of Abe and his trigger happy goons, led by Kid Blue (Noah Segan).

Joe, though, is supremely confident in his abilities, though heavy drug use (taken via eye-drops) and a faltering love for exotic dancer Suzie (Piper Parebo in a refreshingly raunchy role, a nice change from her nice-girl TV appearances), sees him increasingly on edge.

Things go wildly out of control when at his next hit his victim arrives unmasked (usually they have a sack over their head) and Joe quickly realises that he is looking into his own eyes circa 2077 (Bruce Willis). He can’t pull the trigger, and before he knows it he overpowered by the balding dynamo and the fiftysomething Simmons is on the loose.

The plot throws in a whole series of mind-bending changes of direction – especially when the reason for Simmons-the-elder’s presence in the past is revealed and how dark and bloody his single-minded mission actually is – as Simmons-the-younger has to track down his older version.

This takes him to a remote farm occupied by Sara (a nicely strident Emily Blunt) and her young son – and we are only probably at the half-way point of the film by now – and where Looper gets even more complex and strange as old-fashioned sci-fi action-adventure gives way to more cerebral sequences and the film really starts to examine the philosophical implications of the deeply weird and complex situation the characters find themselves in.

The film marks the third time Joseph Gordon-Levitt has worked with Rian Johnson – he starred in Brick and had a quick cameo in The Brothers Bloom – and Looper more than confirms his leading man (in an action film) credentials. He proved he could carry the gun in Inception, but here he gets gun-battles and fist-fights with veteran action star Bruce Willis and more than holds his own. Willis becomes more and more important as the film draws on, and despite his terrible actions he is an oddly sympathetic character – as well as being the one who really explains the implications of the film’s time travel concept.

Looper may prove too thoughtful to fully engage with fans of all-action fare, but in truth it has the perfect balance of smarts and explosions, witty dialogue and impressively staged action scenes, and great performances and high concept.


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