Looper – 2012
Written and Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Garrett Dillahunt, Piper Perabo, Xu Quing, Joe Brennan
The only thing that gives one pause in the first 20 minutes of the Looper is the obviously disfigured face of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Even as I understand that his character, Joe Simmons, is a younger version of the same character played by Bruce Willis, the mind resists the connection. For most, this is because we all remember Bruce Willis as a younger man. His days in the show Moonlighting or even the original Die Hard presented a face that, while thinner than Bruce at present day, was very different from the man we see Gordon-Levitt inhabit. The bridge of the nose is a complete replica of the man we see later, but it seems to not fit the rest of his face. The biggest difference would have to be the elongated jaw of the real thing. The other thing would be that the Looper version of young Bruce never has that smarmy smirk.
Looper has many remarkable ideas that can work their way into your head. Several connections are solid on first glance, but upon closer inspection, can leave you numb. It’s the pace of exposition for these ideas and the rare effective voice over that gets one through the differences in the two versions of Bruce. Soon enough, the bridge of the nose starts to seem really familiar. Once they sit across from each other, it is quite apparent that there are more similarities than differences. By this point one begins to realize that they have fallen down the rabbit hole.
The details fly fast through the opening 30 minutes. Things mentioned and seen here will return later in the story. The story, where time travel is outlawed in the future by those intending to do us good. Murder has also been eradicated. This makes time travel a nice fit for organized crime. Take the person you want gone, bring them to the past, kill them, and then dispose of them. The last two steps of this process are taken care of by a cadre of hit men referred to as Loopers. This process works well for everyone, until the Loopers find themselves unexpectedly in front of their younger selves ready for execution.
What happens then will be left for the viewer. One hitch in the cycle will become evident shortly after Simmons encounters himself, but if you let it go, the rest of the film could not flow more smoothly. It takes you a bit of time to figure out why the two Simmons are always separated throughout the middle part of the film, but it all begins to make sense by the time we meet Blunt’s Sara Rollins. From here, the film begins to make obvious leaps. This does not detract from the film, mainly because the performances of Gordon-Levitt, Willis, Daniels, Gagnon, Segan and Blunt.
Kid Blue, as portrayed by Segan, is an admirably drawn character. He is one who seems absolutely destined to fail, yet incredibly finds resurgence time and again, only to find more failure. The whole process was somewhat exhilarating and the end result may surprise.
Blunt, believable as a mid-western mother, has somehow suppressed that high brow English accent and made it American. She works a balance of tension and determination that feeds off of Gordon-Levitt’s good intentions and creates a bod that Willis has to contend with.
Since his stomach turning roles in There Will Be Blood and Little Miss Sunshine, Dano has consistently been one of the most one-dimensional and least likable actors to land on the screen with a thud. He makes no discernible change in his style here as a weasel trying to escape his fate. This develops into one of the more satisfying and well shot scenes in the film, when the older version of Seth (Brennan) discovers the frightening reality of his past as it happens in his present. It is made all the more satisfying as they leave it to one’s mind to imagine that Dano’s version of Seth experienced. Wish I could have seen that, too, but that I don’t makes for some pretty cool developments later.
Bruce Willis has his Die Hard moments in the film, with one sequence in particular standing out. Those who want to see this for the stand off between he and the rising star that is his doppelganger, you won’t be disappointed. It had me eagerly anticipating for part 5 and RED 2, myself.
One warning to parents of small children: there are more than one incidents in the film that made me and my wife wince. If the prospect of children being hurt, even off screen, affects you in a negative way, don’t watch the film. It is done as respectfully as possible, but it still is tough to take.
(**** out of *****)