Saturday, September 29, 2012

Whacked to the Future: Time Travel Thriller “Looper” is Instant Sci-Fi Classic

“Looper” is one of the best sci-fi films of the past few years and easily stands as not only one the best films of the year, but yet another outstanding career move for Joseph Gordon-Levitt who constantly appears the top films of their respective years. It’s part action thriller, part neo-film noir, and part crime saga all wrapped up neatly in a fascinating time travel tale. The film takes place far in the future. Time travel has been invented but has quickly been made illegal. However, mob guys have harnessed its power: whenever they wanna “dispose of” somebody, they send him back in time and have a hit man known a “looper” kill him in the past where their identity doesn’t quite exist yet. Once these loopers are done with their hit man ways, they’re forced to kill their future self to rid their mob boss’ connection with these loopers. It all sort of sounds confusing and rather convoluted, but for a time travel sci-fi tale it all makes surprising sense. Oh, and it’s extremely rewarding and entertaining on top of it.

            “Looper” can easily stand with such modern sci-fi classics as Minority Report and Inception and even the likes of Blade Runner and The Terminator. What makes the film so successful are strong performances from its cast, a solid well-written script, and a simply fascinating futuristic and original world conceived by writer/director Rian Johnson (“Brick”). Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives an uncannily good performance as Joe. Joe is a twenty-something guy who makes his living as a looper in the year 2044. People are sent to him from the year 2074 for him to kill and dispose of. And he gets paid handsomely in silver. He also spends a lot of time getting high from some type of eye-drop drug. You’ll notice that Gordon-Levitt doesn’t quite look like himself – that’s because an older version of himself is played by Bruce Willis. Willis, as the older Joe, is sent back in time to be killed by his younger self – a process known as “closing the loop” – but complications arise when Willis decides he doesn’t want to die, overtakes his younger self, and escapes determined to stop his younger self from killing him.

            It’s such a wild and original idea and yet the story never gets bogged down in boring exposition or disappointing plot holes. For a movie that uses time travel, everything seems rather airtight. Gordon-Levitt and Willis are strangely good and even Emily Blunt, as one of this society’s 10% who have telekinesis powers, who’s introduced in the film’s second half gives a rather splendid performance as well. Johnston is constantly aware of what he’s doing from every frame and manages to keep the audience guessing until the very end. And for a lower budgeted film, the effects are rather impressive. The entire production seems effortlessly well-produced and well-conceived. There’s no gimmicky futuristic stuff that doesn’t seem relatively possible.

            “Looper” is easily the instant sci-fi classic it strives to be. It creates a remarkably well-conceived world, a story with a tight script, and great performances. And best of all, it never gets bogged down with confusing story elements or having to deal with the ultimately implausible paradoxes of time travel but flows nicely and features some great character development, without ever once being the slightest bit boring. Sci-fi nerds take note, this one’s a keeper.  GRADE: A