movies: looper

looper - face your future, fight your past
There are two types of time travel movies... ones where everything happens in the order it was always meant to happen and always has happened that way... and the other kind where new things can happen based on what happens right now.

The latter type get into areas of temporal mechanics and free will and causality that can make your head hurt if you try and over analyse them after the movie is over.

Looper is the latter type of movie.

The basic premise of the movie is solid enough, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hit man, the titular Looper, in the (not to distant future) present who kills people from the past sent back in time to him via a time machine that won't be invented for another 30 years.

Bruce Willis plays the future version of Joseph, who is sent back in time.

As they say in the classics, hijinks ensue.

Writer/director Rian Johnson crafts a dystopian future that is still recognisable from today's world and there are a number of small touches laid into the movie that aren't explained but make perfect sense. Current cars that have been somewhat inelegantly wired up to run on electricity or abandoned where they ran out of fuel, a sense of China as the next boom economy and the gap between the rich and the poor widening out even further and creating a "vagrant" underclass.

None of this is essential to the movie and isn't given any exposition, its all just fine shading that adds to the overall feeling of a future that lives and breathes and isn't dark and drippy or so universally hi-tech that it feels out of the realms of possibility.

Johnson's story was both more complex and less complicated that I thought it was going to turn out to be as the movie progressed. Without giving anything away, while the ending went to the place I thought it was going, it got there by a different route than I expected and surprised me.

And things that seemed to be just included for overall texture and flavour turned out to be important to the story.

I will say that there were moments where I didn't like the Joseph/Bruce character(s). Making somebody who does bad things your hero is always slightly risky if those acts distance the audience from the character, and that was amplified by having two actors playing two versions of the same character and both doing things that didn't make you feel empathy for them.

I'm not sure how many hours a day Gordon-Levitt had to spend in the make-up chair but the effect is actually quite startling... he doesn't look like himself, although he's a hell of a lot prettier than I remember Willis ever being back in the days of Moonlighting.

Weirdly though, the only time that the make-up looks completely wrong and totally fake (and pretty much not like the make-up in the rest of the movie) is the scene that's been in every trailer and is the first point where the two characters come face to face. I couldn't even tell you what was wrong with the make-up, just that it didn't look right.

However a later scene where the two characters sit face-to-face in a diner, it's a beautifully understated and complete transformation.

It also really brought home to me how old Bruce Willis is...

The other actor who really stands out in the cast is the very youngest member, Pierce Gagnon. For an actor who is about 10 years old, he's remarkable... and he completely makes you believe his character no matter how crazy things get. He's definitely a name to watch for the future, because he could be a major star.

It's not a perfect movie... mostly due to the aforementioned time travel headaches and the amount of empathy I had for the main character, but despite those very small flaws it's a great movie.

yani's rating: 4 blunderbusses out of 5

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