‘Looper’ takes Sci-fi genre forward

Ally Johnson  Journal Staff

Do not make the mistake of brushing this off as just another sci-fi movie, it is so much more than that. Not only is it the best film of its genre is the past 10 years, it’s arguably one of the best films so far released this year, and probably the most original screenplay you’ll come across in the next few months.

The premise is this: In 2072 it’s nearly impossible for an individual to disappear completely, so the Mob has begun a system where they send their targets back in time 30 years to a looper, essentially a hit man, and the looper will kill and dispose of the body. Joe, our protagonist played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is a looper, and one day his future self is sent back to him to take out which is called “closing the loop.” However, something stalls him from pulling the trigger and the older version, played by Bruce Willis, escapes, setting off a string of events, events that couldn’t possibly be guessed by the promotional trailers alone. Does it all sound a little complicated? Of course, it’s a story that revolves around the theory of time travel.

Don’t let the time travel aspect detract from the film, however. This film is a great action film, yes, but is also emotionally complex, thoughtful, and brings up the philosophical queries about what you would do with your life if you could travel through time, if you could kill someone who you knew would turn out bad, if you could save a life, multiple lives? What would you do? Director and writer Rian Johnson addresses all of these.

Rian Johnson is a genius. He takes a basic concept and turns it on his head. He did it with his film Brick in 2005 where he focused his story on a group of teenagers but turned into a neo-noir film and he’s done it again with Looper. This is what Magnolia was to Paul Thomas Anderson and what The Royal Tenenbaums was to Wes Anderson. It’s Johnson’s third film and it’s the one which may put him out there as a formidable and critically thinking director. Generally speaking, there are many complaints about how Hollywood is no longer creative, living paycheck to paycheck with their sequels, blockbusters, and Twilight films. With Johnson, there is creativity in his work that is refreshing and inspired.

Looper suggests a future that has fallen to violence and mayhem. Johnson captures the atmospheric hopelessness. Despite the expansive sets, shots of mile long fields, and momentous cities, the film is still too up-close-and-personal, too gritty and raw. In one particular scene involving another looper Seth, (Paul Dano’s small but important role) he manages to create a truly effective scene with minimal special effects. Johnson knows how to create beautiful scenes without succumbing to the obvious.

The story is beautifully crafted, never allowing the audience to jump too far ahead. Up until the point where Bruce Willis’ Joe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe sit face-to-face in a diner, you think you may have a hunch about where the film’s going; about what may be the ultimate outcome. But then, Sara comes into the picture (played by Emily Blunt reminding us she’s a capable dramatic actress) and her son Sid. Every idea is thrown out the window because these two characters have brought in a new element to the story: love and the idea of how nature versus nurture can affect a human mind.

The prosthetics Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to wear to create likeliness between him and Willis is sometimes distracting, but other than that, there are no obvious real flaws in this film. Sure, you may walk out without a connection to this film, it happens with every movie. This film is however undoubtedly one of the most original screenplays and concepts to hit the screens so far this year, and will have a lasting effect on the sci-fi genre for years to come. This film is what being innovative and curious looks like. Go and see the film for something new and exciting, for great performances, and for a film that will stick with you long after the movie credits have rolled.