Looper is one of 2012’s more enjoyable sci-fi larks, writes Cathal Dennehy
Christopher Nolan, the man behind the Dark Knight Trilogy, has played a major role in changing the way many people look at blockbusters today. 2010’s Inception proved to everybody that a blockbuster didn’t have to be mindless, bland, explosion-filled trash, but rather they could be complex and intelligent. So when people drew comparisons between it and Rian Johnson’s third feature, some began to question whether Looper was going to be a smart science-fiction inspired thriller or just another sub-par action movie riding on the wave of appereciation for Inception.
However, we need not worry – Looper is much more than a lazy rip-off. Looper follows a hitman, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is paid to take out targets sent back from 30 years in the future, where time travel has become possible. However, complications arise when Joe is faced with killing his future self (Bruce Willis). From the very start, it becomes apparent that the characters, and by extension the audience, need not worry about exactly how this whole time travel business works. The plot is as intricately built as the pocket watch Joe carries and anyone with reservations about the complications of the time travel should leave them at the door. It moves along at breakneck speed and, as such, these queries seem unnecessary. Despite the fast pacing, there is plenty room for Johnson to flesh out the characters, both present and future: Joe in particular.
It is interesting and pleasing to see that the two distinctly different incarnations of the same person are essentially two different characters, played very well by Gordon-Levitt and Willis. There is a very interesting comparison between the supposedly more moral future Joe (Willis) and his younger, more reckless self in which the question of Joe’s maturity and the possibility of redemption is examined. The writing and acting is rounded enough to leave some slight ambiguity to the film, suggesting that neither side was right or wrong. While not on the physical scale of other sci-fi actions of recent years, such as Inception or Surrogates, it definitely convinces as a gritty action thriller as well as on an emotional level.
Perfect? Not exactly. At around the 1 hour 20 minute mark it begins to draw influences quite heavily from earlier sci-fi such as the Terminator series. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there is a noticeable tonal shift that takes some getting used to. As well as this, one can’t help but feel that the ending could have been fleshed out just that little bit more.
This is really nothing more than nitpicking though and the overall impression of Looper is very impressive. It looks and feels like a film that, for the most part, knew what it was and one that the entire cast and crew had a great time making. Matrix and Inception comparisons are simply lazy: Looper is a smartly written and directed sci-fi action thriller but it is quite a different film to the above mentioned. While it may not be the absolute best film of 2012, it is certainly among the most enjoyable films you’re likely to see in cinemas this year.