Monday, 14 January 2013

Looper (2012) Review

This week, I called Mr. Peabody, jumped in his Wayback Machine and caught Looper (2012) at the cinema starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis and directed by Rian Johnson. 

Looper (2012) centres on Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Joe is a killer for hire. The twist is, he's hired by people 30 years in the future. Apparently, you can't just kill someone 30 years in the future. If you want someone killed, you have to send them back in time to these specialized assassins called "loopers", of which Joe is one. You kill and you kill and dispose of future bodies until, one day, the mob of the future sends your future self back to be killed by you, thereby "closing your loop". You then get to spend the next 30 years living it up. When Joe has his future self appear before him (Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis), he hesitates, allowing Old Joe the chance to knock Young Joe out and take off. Most of the rest of the movie is about everyone chasing down Young and Old Joe (in an effort to close the loop) while Old Joe goes about trying to fix the future.

I don't know about you, but when I hear a movie is going to deal with time travel as it's central plot device, I usually let out a loud groan. I'm sad to say Looper is no exception. The sheer number of times paradoxes are introduced over the course of the movie is staggering. Without giving away major plot points or spoilers, there are even paradoxes that conflict with other paradoxes. It's so bad that, on two separate occasions, characters in the movie practically tell the audience not to think too hard about the time travel aspect of it. This doesn't necessarily make the movie harder to understand. It just means you can't spend a lot of time thinking about or discussing the time travel aspect of the film as you'll soon be left feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. Because of this, the movie has a hard time finding it legs throughout. Which brings me to my next point. Expectations.

Having seen two different trailers for Looper (2012), the movie was presented and even reviewed as a sci-fi, tech-noir action adventure style movie. Nothing could be further from the truth. This movie is long. Very long. There seems to be an inordinate amount of time sitting around waiting for things to happen. The pacing is hard to get around. On top of that, a goodly chunk of the movie takes place in a rural setting, eliminating the sci-fi, tech-noir look and feel. Maybe it's my fault for having watched the trailers and read the reviews, but aren't those there specifically to garner interest in the film? If you're going to put trailers together to showcase your film, do so honestly.

That's not to say everything about this movie is bad. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a good job with the role he's given and clearly sinks his teeth into playing a young Bruce Willis. The prosthesis applied to JGL to make him look like a younger Willis is absolutely flawless. There was not a single moment where I looked and thought I could see where the makeup lines began and Gordon-Levitt ended. And his take on Willis is spot on, right down to the characteristic sideways glance and even the little smirk Willis is so famous for.

Willis himself turns in his best performance in years. He has about half the screen time that Gordon-Levitt gets, but he definitely steals the show as far as I'm concerned. It's a far, far more emotional role for Willis than any he's done in recent memory.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't at least mention Pierce Gagnon, who plays Cid in the movie. Child actors are always a risk. Entire franchises have been mercilessly killed based on a bad performance by a child actor (Jake Lloyd and the Phantom Menace, anyone?). Pierce Gagnon does an excellent job with his role, giving us one of the best child performances I've seen in recent memory. I have no idea how old this little boy is (were I to guess, I'd say he was probably 6 or 7 when this film was shot), but he has a bright future ahead of him if this film is any indication of what kind of actor he will grow up to be.

Unfortunately, good performances are not enough to save this film from itself. I mentioned earlier how the characters on the screen make light of trying to figure out the time travel aspect of the plot. For some weird reason, this has given way to a lot of critics and fans of the genre giving this facet of the film a free pass. I'm sorry folks, but just because one of your on screen characters apologizes for all of the future plot holes and sloppy, lazy writing, that doesn't make it ok. 

I've heard others saying you, as the viewer, should just ignore the time travel part of the film and enjoy the action instead. I have two issues with that. First, there isn't much action on display. At least, not enough to ignore the central plot of the movie. Secondly, like I just said, it's the central plot of the movie! That's like saying "Se7en is a great film if you just ignore the murders and focus on the relationship between Pitt and Freeman". You can't chuck the time travel plot and you can't ignore how badly that part of the movie is executed. 

Even apart from the time travel paradoxes, there are major plot holes in this film. Ask yourself a couple of questions; Why aren't the victims from the future sent back unconscious? Why have the loopers kill themselves instead of setting up a system where loopers kill each other's future loops (thereby eliminating the possibility of recognizing one's future self)? Why, if you can't kill anyone in the future, do we see at least one person killed in the future and get referenced to a whole lot of people getting killed in the future? In truth, I could ask at least a dozen more, but you get the idea.

This is a high concept movie that gets bogged down in it's own high concept. A decent netflix viewing if you're bored, but I don't think you'll miss much by not seeing it in theatres.

3 out of 5 stars

Looper (2012)
Reviewed by The Bitter Critic on Jan 14 2013
Rating: 3

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