Looper Is An Epic Romance Wrapped Up In Smart Scifi With A Noirish Edge
By Alex Cranz
Time travel allows us to make time, that which is finite, infinite. With time travel we never have to leave the ones we love and we never have to say goodbye. We find a modicum of immortality in our defiance of nature.
But we also take fate–a concept rooted not in reality but in faith–and make it real. Because when we destroy the linearity of time by jumping back and forth and forming it into something infinite everything that will happened has happened. Time becomes amorphous and at once constantly in flux and completely immutable.
It can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around but it’s absolutely critical when watching any smart time travel movie. Looper doesn’t ask us just to enjoy the ride–though it is an easy and pleasurable one to sit through rather it makes its audience work–just it little.
Looper is the story of just one man even if he’s played by two people. You have to remember that when watching it. Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt are the same person in the film but at different points in their lives. So they’re at odds, like that grandparent who started out a Democrat and went Republican in old age. There’s a little contempt for their past and future selves because they are their own worst critic and judge harshly every decision they’ve made between them.
But they’re still the same person and they’re stuck in the infinite, trapped on a loop of fate.
At first the makeup forcing Levitt’s features into the mold of Willis’s is distracting. We’ve seen Die Hard and know what a young Bruce Willis looks like and he does not look like the steel-eyed wrathful figure Levitt cuts. Willis was funny when he was young. A kooky everyman and a screwball comedian. He had an easy smile and a sizeable amount of hair on top of his head and he never, ever growled. Not like Levitt who is the mean snake of a man with the quiet cutting voice and granite jaw that Willis now usually plays. So after a while you forget about young Bruce and Levitt’s very well made prosthetics.
Instead you’re busy wrapped up in the story. Both actors play Joe, a Looper who signs a contract to kill and hide bodies in the present for crime lords in the future. Their contract ends when they pull the trigger and find that the final life they’ve taken is their own. Then they’re given a huge cash payout and twenty–thirty–forty years to live as they please before they find themselves right back where they started: staring down themselves over the barrel of a gun.
They have to kill their “loops.” It’s the one piece of the contract they cannot ignore because it has massive ramifications through space and time–you know the whole of reality. Usually it isn’t a problem. The loop shows up with a bag over their head and the looper pulls the trigger and only learns who they’ve killed when they collect their reward. But Joe’s loop arrives sans hood and is smart, fast and deadly with a brick of gold. He escapes to enact his own plan and with the hope that maybe his life won’t end up like it already did. He killed himself to get there but now he doesn’t want to die.
The film begins as some cyberpunk crime film mash up dosed with a heavy sense of cerebral 70s scifi. Then turns to revenge as Joe tries to take out the older self that is literally killing his future. In between there’s a montage that also serves as en epically romantic short film. And then things turn pastoral as the meat of the plot kicks in and the truth of why old Joe refuses to die is revealed.
That’s when top billed Emily Blunt arrives on the scene as the telekinetic farmer, Sara, caught right in the midst of Joe’s loop. Blunt has been doing solid work for a while now and makes her first attempt at a southern accent here. It isn’t as cringeworthy as many Brits going southern fried often are. She’s a weary party girl forced out into the country and into a lifestyle she didn’t anticipate. Where Joe has had years to come to terms with his fate Sara has had years to be dragged from a dream and into an unknown destiny. So as stable as she is out there on her farm with her shotgun and lazy drawl she’s still something curious to Joe. She’s a vision of a life outside of the inevitable.
The shift between the city and the country is eased by Emily Blunt’s charm, the precocious kid that was so adorable people actually shouted “he’s so adorable” in my theater and the baffled way Joe watches these curious creatures he’s found himself living amongst.
It’s only in the last shot of the film–like something out of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven–that you’re allowed to really reflect on just how grand the scope of the film is despite the intimacy of the individual scenes. There’s an epic quality with how the film moves through its hour and fifty-eight minutes of running time.
This is an event film despite the small-scale. Perhaps because of the grandiose themes that run through it. The singular loves these characters experience. The destiny they race towards and away from at once. The end of the world that exists just beyond their grasp but which they have the power to halt. We’re too caught on that loop of time. Watching a film that is at once new and remarkably modern and instantly a classic.
- One of the most satisfying little “ah ha” moments in the film is in regards to Jeff Daniels’ character. He does fantastic work here as the weary and shark-like Looper contractor.
- Yes, Piper Perabo is in this. Yes, maybe I was one of three people on the planet wondering why she wasn’t used in more promotional material. It’s a small role but her casting alone quickly elevates it.
- The kid you will be looking up on IMDB as soon as you’re out of the theater is Pierce Gagnon. He’s been cutting his teeth on One Tree Hill and other it shows. A natural talent that works really really well without becoming irritating or cloying. More tv and film kids like this one please.