Looper is an ambitious and deeper take on time-travel and the future than the usual sci-fi action flick, and if approached with patience and an open mind, it will blow yours away at least as much as the oft-featured blunderbuss in the film.
It starts slowly. In fact, it maintains a decidedly European style in its ambiguity and attention to character detail. Although the fashion in France and greater Europe of late has been toward all flash and no substance (Banlieu 13, The Horde), Looper recalls the type of art house vibe that made Blade Runner, for example, the top of its genre.
There are no all good or all bad guys, and no one is caricatured. As much goes into developing the lead characters as goes into the art direction and special effects. This may be off-putting to those expecting to see one explosion after another. The pay-offs build from the beginning, making the viewer's experience more rewarding as the film develops.
The story is based in the near future, where time travel has been invented, but quickly outlawed. Only the mob uses it, utilizing a team of largely hapless misfits who, dressed in late '70s mod attire, dispose of folks tossed into the past to be dispatched with one blast of a blunderbuss, their antique weapon of choice.
Lead character Joe, played by both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, is such a guy. Complications ensue when young Joe is expected to kill old Joe but pauses long enough to let him get away…Rian Johnson, director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom, has bit off a big honkin' chunk of sci-fi mythology with Looper.
He is, as evidenced by both former films, a risk taker, and he continues his risks here. As writer and director, certainly the convoluted twists, the collection of anti-heroes, and the holes inherent to any time-travel plot were challenges he knew about and accepted as he approached the production. No doubt Gordon-Levitt knew he was up to the task, as Johnson's Brick arguably gave Gordon-Levitt the leg up that has led to his rising stardom.
While the parroting of Willis' many "signature moves" was required to building a believable younger version of him, it can often be as distracting as it is impressive. However, as the movie continues, Levitt shows exactly why his star is rising so quickly, and why Johnson trusted his talent previously as a young adult.
While no happy endings are promised or necessarily given, the story, that includes Emily Blunt and Piper Perabo as love interests of sorts, definitely offers much to consider in terms of what builds someone into good or bad, or a mix of both.
There is a small child actor introduced about halfway though the movie who is exceptional and so compelling to watch that anyone not "all in" at that point is swept entirely into the proceedings.
Take a chance on this film, if you like time travel or any of the actors present or are a fan of strange mixes of art house invention and studio popcorn fare. Bring a friend. You can talk about it, and philosophize into the night over a bottle of whiskey. It's that kind of flick.
About this column: Leslie Combemale, "Cinema Siren", is a movie lover and aficionado in Northern Virginia. Alongside Michael Barry, she owns ArtInsights, an animation and film art gallery in Reston Town Center. She has a background in film and art history. She often is invited to present at conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con, where she has been a panelist for The Art of the Hollywood Movie Poster and the Harry Potter Fandom discussion. Visit her gallery online at www.artinsights.com and see more of her reviews and interviews on www.artinsightsmagazine.com.