Thursday, October 18, 2012

Review: Looper

One thing I’ve tried to make very clear in my (calling it a career would be ridiculously ostentatious, even for me, so I’ll call it time) as a critic is that I don’t think that an action movie should have to choose between being exciting and smart. Indeed, some of the movies that manage to walk that (often difficult) line end up being on my year’s best list, like Drive or District 9. Looper…is not quite that good. But don’t take that as an insult, it’s still an damn, damn, DAMN good movie on essentially every level that counts.

The plot is kinda labyrinthine, but I’ll try to give you the setup. It’s the future, naturally and even later in the future, time travel has been invented but outlawed. So the crime syndicates set up a system wherein they arrange for people they want dead to be sent back in time with payment for their hitmen known as Loopers. The catch is, eventually in your career, you’ll have to kill your future self and then be given 30 years before then. The film follows one of the Loopers, Joey (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt) living a hedonistic lifestyle when his future self (Bruce Willis) comes back in time and…that’s all I’m going to tell you.

Okay so the plot is really complicated, like any good sci-fi movie based around time travel will be. It’s helped along by an incredibly good script that deftly combines the multi-character perspective with some interesting takes on time travel and time loops. One segment in particular, showcasing what amounts to a dark parallel to Back to the Future’s ‘disappearing scene’ will be sticking with me for a while. It also has the good sense not to dwell on the mechanics of time travel. It works because they say it does, and that’s all we need to know.

The film was directed by Rian Johnson, late of the unspeakably brilliant Brick and he brings his A game to this. The action scenes are tense and exciting, while the character building scenes are also engaging and interesting. It’s also got some truly excellent set pieces, most notably a sequence involving telekinesis that suggests to me someone watched Akira a few dozen times (what is it with movies and referencing Akira this year?) It also doesn’t shy away from the more brutal aspects of it’s concept. One character’s plan and his execution of it is shockingly dark and the movie goes there in full force.

It does have a few stumbling blocks. The character work and pacing in the second act is a little wonky and there are a few hiccups in the way some of the mechanics of memory and damage work (which the characters actively address, oddly enough). Still, it’s an engaging thriller, buoyed by some great action beats and a great pair of performances from Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt (both of whom are having great years). It’s not as good as Argo sure, but that’s not really a complaint. If you haven’t seen this yet, I recommend it.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile, and he had to cut this review short so he could go work.

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