Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Looper: Stop Hitting Yourself

"Looper" is Rian Johnson's long-awaited (by me) leap into mainstream cinema. After the intricate, gritty high-school noir-fantasy of "Brick" and the intricate, kooky, slightly disappointing con-artist fantasy of "The Brothers Bloom", we get the intricate, grimy sci-fi time-travel fantasy of "Looper".

"Looper" takes place in the future, where time travel hasn't been invented yet, but it will be. JGL plays a man named Joe, who has a rubber face and earns a living by killing people who are sent back in time from even further in the future by some temporal-crims. His job-title is "Looper", and a Looper's contract is only terminated when their future-self is sent back in time to be shooted by them. Shit kicks off when Future Joe is sent back to be shot, but it turns out Joe grows up to be Bruce Fucking Willis, so things don't go according to plan.

So, it's pretty high-concept, but it's all presented in such a matter-of-fact, "This is how it is, so shut up and go with it" manner that we aren't really afforded the opportunity to raise any "but..."s.

Johnson effectively dismisses paradoxical plot-holes by having characters flat-out refuse to talk about the mechanics of time-travel, wearily proclaim that such conversation "fries your brain like an egg" and generally adhere to the "wibbley-wobbley timey-wimey" rationale of fuzzy time-travel logic.

With the science part mostly swept to one side, we are left with an action drama which simply uses sci-fi as a catalyst in much the same way as "Back to the Future". It doesn't matter how the Flux Capacitor works, it just fucking DOES, alright?

The film deals with philosophical questions of causality and free-will, nature/nurture and destiny. If you could see your future, could you change it? If you could talk to your past-self, what would you say? This is genuinely thoughtful sci-fi, as opposed to the big-budget psuedo-profound schlock of something like "Prometheus", but it still has its fair share of bone-crunching punch-ups, blood-splattered shoot-outs and hover-bike chases to keep things interesting.

JGL channels Willis brilliantly, delivering a performance of subtle texture which is only slightly marred by the peculiar halloween mask he has been made to wear. Willis takes his world-weary schtick to a whole new level as a man literally facing the sins of his past, Emily blunt pops up with a cowgirl accent and does typically solid work, Jeff Daniels is an affable bad guy, Dode from "Brick" plays another creepy douche, Paul Dano plays another weepy feeble and there is creepy kid performance which might be the best in the film.

It's all tied together with a clean visual style - the camera often remaining remote and detached from action - and subtle art design which nestles futuristic and familiar amongst each other.

Some may complain of a slight structural hiccup in the film, wherein the break-neck chases of the first hour suddenly give way to a waiting-game that takes up a lot of the second act, but there are enough character and plot revelations to give the sensation of momentum even as the action remains static.

Rian Johnson can now be placed alongside Duncan Jones and Neill Blomkamp in the "Young Directors Doing Sci-Fi Properly" file. Check it out.


  1. The writing and directing are in top-notch form where everything keeps you riveted and compelled, but there was that certain element of human-drama that just seemed to be missing. I don’t know where it went or why it didn’t come to me, but it just didn’t and made me feel like I was missing out on something in the end. Nice review.

  2. Holy hell, I didn't realise you were back TUM. Great review,