STARRING Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Garrett Dillahunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Rian Johnson MPAA RATING Rated R RUNNING TIME 118 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY TriStar Pictures DVD EXTRAS Commentary with director Rian Johnson, Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt; featurettes "Looper: From the Beginning" and "Scoring Looper"; five deleted scenes. Also, on Blu-ray: "The Science of Time Travel" featurette and 17 additional deleted scenes.
"Looper" is Easily One of 2012's Best Sci-Fi Flicks
Joseph Gordon-Levitt proves once again that he's one of the best young actors working today with his performance in Rian Johnson's Looper, easily one of 2012's sci-fi highlights and one of the few films to masterfully weave together both past and present with equal conviction while incorporating elements of science fiction, fantasy, drama and action.
Sci-fi has never been one of my favorite genres of filmmaking, but Looper had me from the get go and never let me go. A good majority of the film is set in rural Kansas in 2044, a time that is the future for us but is actually 30 years prior to the foundation that is built in Looper. 2044 is still a relatively calm time, but by the 2070's time travel has been discovered and organized crime largely rules the land. Time travel is outlawed, but it is widely used by by the organized syndicates to deal with anyone who runs afoul of them. Those who run afoul are sent back to 2044, where they are promptly met by a "looper," a specially trained assassin whose rewards are great for "finishing the job." Eventually, of course, a looper's contract is terminated and they are sent a future version of themselves to eliminate or "close the loop."
Writer/director Rian Johnson, who also directed Gordon-Levitt in Brick, has created a story that is compelling and complex without ever becoming bogged down in unnecessary details or condescending exposition. Looper is that rare sci-fi flick that satisfies both intellectually and emotionally, despite one thread that at least briefly threatens to derail it but never does.
Gordon-Levitt is Joe, one of the best loopers in a small gang led by Abe (Jeff Daniels) who finds himself in trouble when he begins protecting a friend (Paul Dano) who has run afoul of the gang. Before you know it, Joe finds himself face-to-face with an older version of himself played by Bruce Willis, who has seldom been better than he is in this film. Truthfully, sci-fi in recent years has seldom been better than it is in this film. Johnson's film is stylish, confident, exciting, entertaining and just about everything else you could possibly expect from a film.
With a lot of really good sci-fi films, you find yourself wanting to see them again mostly because you want to put together the pieces of the puzzles. With Looper, you'll find yourself wanting to re-assemble the pieces while also spending more time with these characters and just plain re-experiencing the film's electricity once again.
The heart of the film belongs to Emily Blunt, an actress I've long appreciated but to whom I've never fully surrendered. As a shot-gun wielding single mother who allows Joe sanctuary on her farm, Blunt is simply and absolutely the film's emotional tour-de-force. She helps to fuel the film's most humanity-centered themes, a refreshing presence in a genre that can, at least to this critic, become all too impressed with itself and all too concerned with technology over everything else. Johnson gets it, he really gets it, that the most impressive and impactful way to use advanced technology is to weave it into a story of how it all impacts society, humanity and individuals that we actually grow to care about.
While Brick was considered a remarkable debut for Johnson and follow up The Brothers Bloom was an impressive if overly quirky follow-up, nearly everything falls into place for Looper. Gordon-Levitt is simply fantastic here, exuding confidence and eliciting sympathy despite behaviors that aren't exactly sympathetic. Among the supporting players, Jeff Daniels is most impressive while young Pierce Gagnon gives one of 2012's most impressive child performances.
I'm intentionally avoiding any description of how the story unfolds, preferring to leave it to you to experience for yourself. Suffice it to say that Johnson avoids pretentious plot twists in favor of authentically developed benchmarks and directional changes. Steve Yedlin's camera work is impressive, while Nathan Johnson original music perfectly accentuates just about every mood that the film manages to strike.
Looper isn't quite a flawless film, but it's about the closest we've had in the sci-fi genre in 2012. With exceptional performances across the board and a story that is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying, Looper is the film your heart and your brain have been craving all year.