Film Review: Looper (Film District; 2012)

By Steven Armour 

A big budget sci-fi thriller concerning the idea of time travel was probably the last thing fans of Rian Johnson were expecting when his latest feature was announced. What at first would appear to be a departure from his independent film roots, Johnson’s Looper in fact manages to keep those indie sensibilities, resulting in a refreshingly gritty, exhilarating take on the normally hit or miss genre.

The year is 2044 and the world has become an even more corrupted, divided place, with the rich getting richer and the poor struggling to survive. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe explains the current state of affairs – via helpful narration – as well as his unusual, unsavoury method of earning a living as a ‘Looper’: a sort of hit-man who kills people sent to him from the future. However, Joe’s world is turned upside down as one day, out of the blue, his next ‘hit’ sent to him is in fact his future self (Bruce Willis). Along with unexpected help from Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son, Joe struggles to evade his vengeful employers and capture his future self.

Flawlessly paced and innovatively shot, Looper is a rare breed in the sci-fi genre – which we have seen shamelessly, haphazardly attempted and exploited many times over in l

esser films – as we are gripped by its distinct originality and previously unexplored, clever ideas. The film also packs a strong emotional punch without devolving into contrived sentimentality, and it’s a relief to see a film of this genre not overloaded with alienating technical jargon.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to pull-off a fairly convincing Bruce Willis, from the obviously necessary (slightly distracting) prosthetics, to the tough but charming demeanour, and even Willis’ recognisable soft voice. Willis tears up the screen doing what he does best – racking up a high body count and being an all-round badass. Although the role is not particularly far removed from the action-packed characters Willis usually plays, it is nice to see him in a part with more emotional weight to it, as well as playing somewhat against type.

With Looper Johnson has expertly crafted a sordid, almost believable imagining of the not-so-distant future, with emphasis placed on the class divide and financial concerns that our society is currently consumed by. Unfortunately though, no film is without its flaws, and a reveal in the latter half of the film does not really ring true to the overall tone up until then. Also despite several intelligent twists, the film’s ending is surprisingly predictable – but that is not to say that it is not highly effective.

What is sure to be one of 2012’s most memorable films, and a classic in years to come, the film never lets the high-concept plot take away from its fully fleshed out characters. Johnson has finally leapt the barrier from under-seen but acclaimed independent cinema into the mainstream – and the result is a smart, slick, genre-defining piece of pure entertainment.

Looper is showing at Movie House cinemas across Belfast