Looper (15)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/09/2012

Four out of Five stars

Running time: 118 mins

Writer-director Rian Johnson's third film is a stylish, intelligent and superbly acted Sci-Fi thriller with some intriguing ideas and great dialogue, though it also has a few frustrating logic problems and ultimately isn't quite as satisfying as it ought to be.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Looper is set in 2042 Kansas City, thirty years before time-travel is invented and subsequently exclusively controlled by organised crime. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a type of hitman known as a ‘looper’, whose job it is to execute whoever future crime bosses send through time at an allotted time and place. However, when Joe's latest victim turns out to be his future self (Bruce Willis), Old Joe escapes and soon both Joes are on the run, with Old Joe determined to change his own future whatever the cost and Young Joe intent on killing his older self before his boss (Jeff Daniels) loses patience and has him killed.

The Good
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent as Joe, though he's been the victim of a completely unnecessary digital make-up job to make him look a bit more like Bruce Willis and this backfires considerably, because it's ultimately more distracting than the lack of resemblance would have been in the first place. Willis is equally good as Old Joe, stripping away his smirking, wise-cracking screen persona to create something that's simultaneously desperate, haunting and chilling; there's also strong support from Emily Blunt (as Sara, who agrees to hide Young Joe in the farm house she shares with her mysterious young son), Jeff Daniels (cast brilliantly against type as a ruthless mob boss) and Paul Dano as a fellow looper.

The intriguingly dark script is full of interesting ideas and the production design is extremely impressive, with 2042 Kansas City sporting a sort of 1930s Depression era aesthetic, albeit one with hover bikes and super-charged guns. In addition, the script crackles with great dialogue and has a certain amount of fun with the ghostly echoes of other time-travel thrillers (Terminator and Twelve Monkeys in particular), while also attempting to warn the audience not to think about it all too closely (Old Joe pointedly tells Young Joe that thinking about all that time-travel stuff can give you a headache).

The Bad
It is perhaps unfair to chastise a film for not being the film you want it to be, but it's fair to say that Looper's preoccupations lie elsewhere and that anyone expecting brain-bending time-travel style thrills is likely to be disappointed. What's worse is that the film deliberately ignores the rules of time-travel paradox movies and, ironically, fails to close its own loops; the result is that the plot falls apart under close scrutiny, but this does at least provide fodder for animated post-film pub discussion.

Worth seeing?
Despite its flaws, Looper remains an engrossing and enjoyable Sci-Fi thriller with terrific performances from Willis and Gordon-Levitt.

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Content updated: 13/11/2012 23:11

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