Monday, October 1, 2012

Looper review; a sifi film heavy on character, and not so much the sifi

If you've never heard of Rian Johnson, don't feel too bad.  Not many people have.  He made a very delightful film in The Brothers Bloom a few years ago, that unfortunately no one saw.  Now comes something a bit more mainstream.  Johnson is the writer/director of Looper, a science fiction film about the future, as well as time travel.  The mob controls time travel in the future.  When they want to get rid of someone, they send them to the past; where a looper, like the one played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, awaits to kill them.  This is a great system until the mob decides to "close the loop".  Gordon-Levitt is ready to kill his next target.... until he realizes it's his older self (played by Bruce Willis).  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Story/Theme
I kind of hinted at this in the title, but most will be surprised by the depth of this film.  It's not just about the future and time travel, it's about so much more!  Emily Blunt plays the mother of a child who has a very important role in the future.  And instead of beating a dead horse with the notion of time travel, Johnson pulls us into the story of life, death, love and redemption.  It's going to be difficult to write this review without spoilers, but I promise I wont.  Films with a big spectacle can totally flop if we're not invested in the characters, and in this film, we're definitely invested in these characters.

The Actors/Characters
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is just getting better with every movie he stars in.  I am a really big fan of the actor's work.  He is very grounded in this movie.  Never going over-the-top and never short changing the audience in pivotal scenes.  And as for his older self, Willis puts in a terrific performance.  With no duologue, you can see the character has been beaten down in his life.  He's a tired old man who just wants peace for the remainder of his life.  The irony is, to achieve this peace, he starts his own war.  The characters are so richly written, you can't help but be intrigued.

There is a great scene between Gordon-Levitt and Willis at a diner.  It's their first real confrontation.  The two actors play this perfectly!  An older, beaten down man, trying to knock some sense into his younger self.  The younger self, unapologetic about the decisions he's made in his life, argues back in the face of his older self.  Really great stuff!  Emily Blunt really annoyed me at the beginning of her performance, but we quickly realize how important she is to the story arc.  The climax of the film involves all three of the lead actors, and offers up so much more than a special effects spectacle.  There is real heart, love, hate, conviction and redemption all in the same scene.  Awesome.

And I would be wrong not to mention a killer, albeit small role, for Jeff Daniels.  He plays a mob boss in the past, who communicates with the mob bosses of the future.  Very clever writing.  Daniels also resists playing it over-the-top.  Intimidating other characters while never raising his voice.  He was a great addition to the already talented cast.

The World
The universe Johnson created for these characters, is very believable.  Much like Inception, there are rules these characters live by.  Johnson works out all the rules without the boring exposition of Inception.  Very few special effects shots of the future are used.  Some CGI work to show the futuristic city, but nothing crazy.  Again, Johnson forces us to focus on the characters, not the spectacle.

What I didn't like about the film:
Just go with it
The movie is so well written, the characters so rich and developed, it's a shame the movie often asks us to 'just go with it'.  In some reviews I've read, critics are saying it's all on purpose.  That Johnson wants us to ignore the science and focus on the characters.  I agree with this to a certain extent.  The characters actually say it out loud, 'don't worry about how it works'.  But it doesn't take a genius to say, "but if that is happening now, wouldn't that affect him in the future?"  I must stay this vague in order not to spoil anything.  So if you watch the film, tweet me @atdmovie.  I'd love your hear your opinion.

The Verdict:
So much more than an "action film"
These reviews are often my opinions of the film backed up with examples; but I just can't do that here.  This is the first movie I've reviewed where I want to write a spoiler-filled review; and I just might do that later this week.  But for now, let me assure you, this is not an "action film".  It is so much more.  And Sony was very smart not to advertise it for what it is, a film about life, death, redemption and most of all parenting.  Yes, parenting.  You have to see it for the explanation.  And I apologize for the weak review, but there really is no way to describe it without ruining the genuine surprises the film has to offer.  Go see the movie and let me know if you agree to disagree.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review Tony. The plot makes perfect sense even if it may seem a bit confusing at first, and the suspense draws you in but something just did not mix so well in the end. I didn’t really care all that much for the characters and that’s sort of why the pay-off didn’t do much for me.