Tuesday 23 October 2012

Review: Looper

Year: 2012
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenplay: Rian Johnson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

Synopsis is here:

I've more than enjoyed the films of Rian Johnson in the past but always felt in the back of my mind, that he was a filmmaker who was very quick to show that he has smarts. Brick had its Filmore-equse high school noir plot and jargon, The Brothers Bloom was a breezy heist movie that almost felt too light on the con itself and that may have over done the quirk. To say his movies have limited appeal is incorrect, however, as much as I've taken pleasure from Johnson's movies, I've not been surprised that the fan base has been quite niche.

Looper is Johnson's most pleasurable film, and its interesting that it takes the twists and turns of sci-fi and time travel to supply his most emotionally satisfying tale. The film holds a clear understanding of genre, a well constructed world and a hearty grip of the mechanics.  Johnson toys with the dynamic, but not enough to distance, and not lightly enough to make it feel gimmicky. All the elements of the story are utilised and it's focus on character create a thrilling and surprisingly affecting update to La jetee and 12 monkeys. Those who want all the detailed minutia to play out can watch Primer. Looper is more likened to Source Code, in that everything is built well enough to wrap the viewer up into the pace and bluster of it all.

Johnson still keeps his brow raised slightly, using a constant ticking clock motif and cyclical nature of the sci-fi at hand to create an engrossing backdrop that contrasts the three main character motivations. We have a young buck preoccupied by only his future goals, a hardened old man, blinded by the pain of his past and a juvenile right at the tipping point of his life. Johnson strategically plays these characters against age old themes of sacrifice and the ideal that our actions may help a greater good in deeper ways that we even know. 

Bruce Willis is not at all new to what's playing out (see 12 Monkeys) and gives that that credible world weariness that we now know him for. Joseph Gordon Levitt has a more burdensome role, having to play a more intolarent version of the same character and as well as mimic Willis from a physical preceptive. He doesn't fully look the part but there're moments in which Levitt is doing more than an effective impression. Emily Blunt is the emotional anchor of the film and puts in a bankable performance, although elements of her relationship with Levitt could have been stronger on the screen. Piper Perabo, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels provide solid support.

The film stumbles in it's middle act. We have quite a few characters and suddenly lumped with more background to get through and this all effects the main charge of it all. However, the film get itself in gear for a very impactful climax, which balances the scale of the implications with what we've learnt from the character during the story. Johnson's film has a great time travel hook,and a solidly believable world to place it in (I love the eye drop drugs and solar car ideas) but what makes Looper such an enjoyable watch is that Johnson keeps an eye on the human element, something that good sci-fi should nearly always do.