Sunday, October 21, 2012

“Looper” – Joseph Gordon-Levitt has something on his face.

Have you seen the commercials calling Looper the best action movie of the year? Normally, this kind of hyperbole would send up all manner of red flags. Commercials that shout things like “#1 Comedy of the Year!” or “Best Action Movie of the Year!” or “Al Pacino’s Best Performance Ever!” are usually lying and should be shouting things like “I Dare You to Spend Money on This Film!” or “You’ll Probably Fall Asleep at Least Twice!” or “Al Pacino Was Blackmailed into Starring in This Movie!” Looper is no different; it’s not the best action movie of the year. In case you were in a coma during the summer, The Avengers is the best action movie of the year. However, the commercials for Looper are less of a lie than those others – it really is a good action movie.

The first thing you need to do to enjoy this movie is accept the premise of time travel and forget about the paradox. You know what I mean: the idea that if you go back in time and change something, when the future occurs again, you wouldn’t have that motivation, so you don’t go back in time to change it, so it happens again, so on and so on. This movie will make it more difficult for you to ignore it as they will actually show you the paradox, then pretend it never happened. It’s a little bit jarring when it happens, and you’ll know it when you see it, but to the filmmakers’ credit, they will help you forget by blowing things up.

The main premise of the movie is that a crime syndicate sends people thirty years into the past to be killed by hit men known as loopers. There’s no drama here as the looper is waiting at a pre-determined spot for the person to appear and when they that happens, the looper blasts the person with a blunderbuss (basically, a powerful shotgun). The drama comes in when the target is the older version of the looper, effectively retiring the young looper. The looper knows who it is because the target is strapped with a pile of gold bars. Since you’ve seen the previews, you know that Bruce Willis is the older version of Gordon-Levitt, a looper named Joe, who doesn’t kill his older self when he appears on the spot. This is the basic plot, but it gets deeper.

The other piece of the plot is that older Joe is seeking revenge for the killing of his wife in the future. His plan is to find the child version of a man called the Rainmaker and kill him in order to change the future and therein lies the beginning of the paradox. Now, because young Joe didn’t kill old Joe, Joe’s boss (Jeff Daniels) sends men out to kill both of them. While all of this happens, young Joe ends up at the farm of Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). This is where the movie really gets good and I stop telling you more.

The great things about this movie are the actors and the unpredictability. Willis gives his typical performance, though this time we’re not sure whether to root for or against him. The same goes for Gordon-Levitt, who has the added burden of mimicking Willis. Daniels and Blunt are both very good as well, playing their respective roles nearly to perfection. However, the best performance may actually belong to Gagnon who makes it extraordinarily easy to believe that he will grow up to be an evil crime lord. He is also a character you aren’t sure is good or bad, but there are times when he is downright frightening. And because you are never really sure who is good or bad (besides Blunt and Daniels, whose characters are clear), the ending is nearly impossible to predict. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to not know how a movie would end until it actually ended. Most movies give themselves away in the first ten minutes, if not their previews.

As good as this movie was, the one thing keeping it from being fantastic is the prosthetics they used to make Gordon-Levitt look like Bruce Wiilis. It was so distracting that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and noticed it every time I looked at him. It was as bad as Lily Collins’ eyebrows in Mirror Mirror, which may or may not have been stolen from your 85-year old grandfather. So, here’s a little advice to the filmmakers – when you make a movie where I am asked to accept time travel, you don’t have to alter Gordon-Levitt to convince me he is Willis’ younger self. Especially when you didn’t do it for another looper who looked nothing like his older self.

Goofy chin aside, this was a very good movie that doesn’t get too deep in the science part of the fiction. They give you a premise, they build a good story, and they fill in the rest with well-timed action and smart characters. Just remember, it’s not The Avengers, no matter how many commercials say differently.

Rating: Don’t ask for any money back, though there should be some sort of refund for that chin.

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