Looper is one of this year's movies that I had been looking forward to since the day I heard of it. Its conceit, that of a hitman whose targets are sent from the future, being sent his future self to kill, hooked me from the start. Add director Rian Johnson (Brick), Bruce Willis, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (whom I admittedly have a man-crush on) and it was already shaping up to be amazing.
Then I watched the movie.
Since Jay has already written a succinct and accurate review of Looper that you should have already read, I won't tread on his ground (too much). Instead, while still high from seeing Looper, I will give you a list of three reasons I love this movie, and why you should too.
1. Time Travel Done Right
One of the hardest concepts to deal with in Science Fiction is the concept of Time Travel. For the writer, time travel is an easy tool to use to navigate plot points, but comes with the price of creating redundancies, plot-holes, and general discombobulation of your story if not handled correctly. For the audience, time travel is a fun concept that is just fantastical enough to be thought-provoking without alienating us, but can become distracting very easily.
Looper handles time travel perfectly, in my opinion. I liken the way time travel is handled in this movie to the way Captain America's shield and Thor's hammer are handled in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They give us the concept, such as Cap's shield and Thor's hammer returning to them when thrown, and they tell us it works because it works. That's the vibe I get from Looper regarding time travel. It works the way it does because that's how it works. This philosophy almost instantly allows for suspension of disbelief. Until time travel is invented in the real world, I think all sci-fi that wants to tackle it should use this philosophy.
Of course, whenever time travel is brought into play, there is the potential for plot-holes in the story. Looper is not an exception to this rule. However, the movie manages to tip-toe around the major pitfalls of time travel, leaving very small plot-holes that are easily ignored given the quality of the movie.
2. Beautiful Cinematography
Speaking of quality, this movie is gorgeous. Cinematography is the art of creating motion picture images. That is an art that Steve Yedlin, the cinematographer, obviously knows quite well. I don't pretend to know a great deal about the art of cinematography, but I know when a movie has a “look” and if the movie is consistent in its look and whether or not said look actually works for the movie. It is akin to the point of view and grammatical tense a story is told from. The POV and tense can serve to help or hinder the storytelling process, depending on how it is utilized and how well it is utilized. Cinematography is the same way.
But, thankfully, Looper puts together a view of the future that is realistic and just this side of dystopian. That works to give the audience something to relate to, making the movie a bit more accessible. Something else that I loved about the cinematography was the creative use of camera movements and angles. One that I'm sure everyone who has seen the trailer knows about is the shot of JGL falling from a building. The camera makes a 90 degree rotation, giving us a new perspective on the fall. This type of thing happens throughout the film, pulling you into the twisted world of the Loopers.
Another cinematographic decision that I'm thankful for is the use of repeat scenes. The fall I described above is shown twice. Once from Young Joe's perspective, which it artsy and slo-mo. Then again from Old Joe's perspective as he watches Young Joe, which is shown in a wide shot in normal speed. It is a technique used multiple times and it works so very well.
3. Great Acting and Clever Story
Something that sci-fi (and films in general) suffer from is a noticeable lack of originality. Everything is a sequel, a remake, or a reboot. So, to see an original story actually be thought-provoking, clever, and still entertaining absolutely floors me. Really good original sci-fi films are very few and far between. But Looper manages to hit all of its marks.
It does so with help from its actors. Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in one of the best performances of his career as Young Joseph Simmons. Young Joe is a character who is cold and unflappable on the surface, but deeply caring and passionate underneath. JGL sells the multi-faceted character all while imitating Bruce Willis' characteristics and mannerisms.
Willis, on the other hand, plays Old Joe brilliantly. There is a tragedy about this character, who wants so desperately to fight the future that he would do very uncomfortably terrible things, that Willis nails. There is a scene in the movie, which I won't ruin for you, that ends with Old Joe in tears. I wasn't far behind. It was that good.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention the supporting actors, but honestly, all of the supporting actors gave performances that were well within their capabilities and they nailed them as well. However, I do have to give special kudos to Pierce Gagnon, who plays Cid, Emily Blunt's character's son. He is a child actor to look for. His character, Cid, is a troubled, genius-level kid with a sordid past. Gagnon plays Cid with a sincere cuteness that switches to terrifying intensity so quickly and easily that it is almost jarring. Gagnon has a lot of talent.
All in all, I am a huge fan of this movie. I will definitely be seeing it again...and again. Let me put it this way: I will go purchase the Blu-Ray. That's the best compliment I can give a movie.