wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?) - And then watch again, preferably in theatre!
Rian Johnson’s sci-fi time travel flick ‘Looper’ is the kind of film that will grab you by the throat and demand your attention. Twists abound in this fast-paced film as you are drawn in and the foundation is laid for a pulse-pounding finale. Its writing flaws can be ignored in favour of the sheer entertainment that the film provides.Read more
Rian Johnson’s Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, is a thrillfest of a film - fast-paced with twists and turns that hook you by the minute; so much so that in all of the time you spend on the idiomatic edge-of-your-seat, you may overlook some serious screen-writing flaws and plot holes. Still, considering that it is a sci-fi film based on time travel, getting an airtight script is a near impossibility, and Johnson’s deft direction doesn’t give you enough time to dwell on any of the flaws longer than the time it takes for the next cut.
The fun-and-games begin with a voiceover – Gordon-Levitt’s – that introduces you to the concept of a ‘Looper’ and sets the context for the film. In the future (2074 to be precise) when time travel is invented, it gets instantly outlawed. It is then used only by the mob and for one specific purpose – people they need killed are sent back in time 30 years (2044, which is much of the ‘present’ in the film) to be killed by a Looper. Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a Looper, who’s life seems rosy until his future self – Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, is sent back to be killed by him to ‘close the loop’.
The concept of time travel is tricky, because there are virtually a gazillion ways in which one can go wrong when depicting it on screen – simply because there is absolutely no point of reference for it. Rian Johnson’s time travel raises a lot of fundamental questions as well, which would be considered plot holes if it weren’t for the fact that he has given a number of interviews clarifying these holes. But directors’ interviews aren’t part of the film, so the flaws still stand.
Also, Gordon-Levitt’s voiceover popping up every once in a while to clarify things is the biggest problem with this film. It is a directorial and screenwriting flaw, the fact that they couldn’t suck the viewer into the world of the film and blow their minds without resorting to something as un-cinematic as a voice-over. Even as it stands, the film does blow your mind. But it could have been taken to the next level if they could have achieved it without the VO.
But as mentioned earlier, these flaws are swept away because of the merits and the pace of the film. Rian Johnson’s depiction of the future is grungy, with unlikely technological advancements kept to a bare minimum. Tiny details like a new narcotic that is consumed by dropping it into the eye add to the world that Johnson creates. Also, the non-linearity in the narrative is handled with remarkable maturity – no cheap tricks to heighten the drama in repeated scenes shown from different points of view. The film also has an unlikely family angle to it that really sets it apart from regular action flicks.
Gordon-Levitt is extremely convincing as the Looper who is trying to hunt down his future self. The prosthetic changes to his face do take some getting used to, but you eventually settle into it, since the point of them is to increase his similarity to Bruce Willis. Willis himself has done well with his deadpan action and dry wit. Emily Blunt is excellent as well, even though I can’t even begin talking about her role here, because it will just give too much away.
Looper is the kind of the film that will demand a second viewing just to see if your mind is equally blown the second time, but it doesn’t lend itself well to too much deconstruction. The mysteries and plot details that beg questioning will mount the more you analyze it. But it is also the kind of the film that will spawn a lot of interesting forums and analyses on the internet – like all such movies tend to do. But then isn’t that the point of cinema anyway, to open up discussion, to be ripped and torn apart so that those of us who live cinema can fuel our hunger? Looper must be watched, enjoyed and debated.
This review is by guest reviewer Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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