“This decade’s The Matrix?” is the ultimate Looper question, which has been flashing from the side posters of buses in Glasgow in the last few weeks, with bad-ass Joe x 2 watching over the unsuspecting Glaswegian streets!!!
So, as 2044 mafia kingpin Abe puts it for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s young-version Joe in the latest highly anticipated instalment of the sci-fi genre: “Let’s break the tension here!”, this is definitely not the new The Matrix! What it is, however, is a smartly thought of, beautifully designed feature with some brilliant acting (a bow for JGL and a reverence to Emily Blunt are in order here), with an abundance of striking and far-from-banal action sequences, and with unexpected but very welcome display of emotional depth.
Why it is not the new The Matrix?
It is not a game-changer – it’s that simple! Although Looper adds some new strokes to the time-travel gig, it remains essentially a clear-cut exploration of the everlasting time travel question “Now that I have seen the future, can I change it and what would be the cost to do it?” As contradictory as it may seem considering the essence of the time travel concept, the film follows a fairly straightforward narrative in the sense that the main themes of self-exploration, redemption and coming to terms with what is and what will be, have all been successfully ticked by previous movies (think 12 Monkeys, The Butterfly Effect and needless to say The Terminator saga), so the audience finds themselves in somewhat familiar surroundings. So Looper really puts itself into the new polished model of these films’ same shoes. However, it doesn’t fail to surprise either, especially with the ending (no spoiler alert here!), which is so unexpected and grabbing, that it would call for immediately watching the film again in order to wrap your head around it (I certainly did just that!).
So why all the buzz around Looper?
Let’s start at the origin – writer and director Rian Johnson, who comes from more than humble origin with regard to his experience, with only two films behind his back – high school noir Brick, starring (surprise, surprise!) JGL as the protagonist, and the eccentric adventure comedy The Bothers Bloom. So honestly, after those two well-received, but modest endeavours, one wouldn’t have expected Johnson’s third film to generate that much interest and go kaboom in the world box-office. But then again, no-one thought so about The Wachowski brothers (or should I say siblings, since “Larry” have recently become “Lana”, if you are interested in the juicy gossip), and their, coincidentally, also third project The Matrix. And you all know what happened with The Matrix – it not only redefined the sci-fi genre, but marked a turning point in the way films are made, visually presented and even thought of.
And although Looper is probably not a crucial point in the history of filmmaking, it certainly is an important one that does the job, especially considering that very few movies nowadays manage to present a groundbreaking development to the world. If we had to name a few, however, there are a couple that would probably come before Looper, including 300 – for being visually revolutionary and stunning, and Inception – for the boldness of its vision and the display of high concept as never seen before. Also, with a hopeful stare into the future, Guillermo del Torro’s next feature might earn a spot on that shelf (Pacific Rim is set to come out summer 2013 and seems so good, I will not even reveal any more, but will leave you with the sweet ache of expecting the trailer).
Regardless, Looper is a film you wouldn’t want to miss. It delivers compelling and intelligent storytelling, not least due to the fact that although time travel isn’t the point of the film, but serves just to set the scene, once you have started thinking about it, it is definitely a pickle! Writer and director Rian Johnson claims that one can “shoehorn it into making sense”, but you might need a good-luck horseshoe in order to work that shoehorn! In any case, Looper strikes with the plausibility of the dystopian universe it creates, where the line between heroic and villainous is blurred and the future seems both different and familiar.
And what about the acting?
Well, that my dear friends, is definitely a treat! JGL is mesmerizing as the young version of Bruce Willis, and it is not just because of the manufactured physical resemblance (he had to spend 3 hours a day in the make-up chair), but because he has diligently followed all the steps in the “How to be Bruce Willis” guide – from the eyebrow arch to the lip pout, from the swag to the husky voice, it is all there, and it looks good! And why shouldn’t it when we consider that Rian Johnson wrote the part specifically for Gordon-Levitt (you might notice that the main character is affectionately called “Joe”, you know, short for “Joseph”), and JGL has shown propensity for acting in mind-challenging blockbusters (think Inception) and for being a tough, but emotionally charged character (think The Dark Knight Rises).
As for older Joe – Bruce Willis, you might be glad to know that although far from his 12 Monkeys days, he delivers a pretty decent performance, which comes as a gulp of fresh air in between his previous project The Expendables 2 and his upcoming Die Hard number 5 (or 5000, what’s the difference?) or in other words, A Good Day to Die Hard. However, it appears very difficult to take him seriously anymore, considering the aforementioned films, so maybe he should’ve followed the advice he gives to Arnie in The Expendables 2: “You’ve been back enough, now it’s [someone else’s] turn to be back!” JGL anyone? (For best alternative picks to play older Joe, see the section below)
And let’s not forget the softer side of the movie (you would think) – the female character of farmer mom Sara. Actually, this cannot be further from the truth, since Emily Blunt delivers a character as hard-ass as they come, with her opening line being “Listen up fucker!” and her Midwest American accent so spot-on, you would have a hard time believing she is actually a Briton. Or to sum it up, there is nothing blunt about Emily’s performance and the way she fits in Looper’s vision.
It may not be the next The Matrix, but Looper definitely earns the title as one of the best time-travel films of all time – intelligent, gritty and unconventional at times, it will undoubtedly leave a mark in your mind. Plus it’s a revelation of what JGL is capable of, laying the ground for the boy-wonder’s path to manhood with regard to his acting. Being Bruce Willis for a while can have this effect, I guess!
5/5 Marvelous points
Best picks to play older Joe:
1. Denzel Washington – besides the obvious fact that…umm…his skin colour doesn’t match JGL’s, he would have been perfect to portray older Joe, especially considering his successful experience with the time-travel genre (Déjà Vu) and his ability to depict rugged anti-heroes (Man on Fire, Training Day).
2. Mickey Rourke – similarly to Bruce Willis, he already has the lip pout and eyebrow twitch going on, so no extra effort there, plus he can boast a more recent history of portraying an emotionally struggling character trying to retrieve the little that is still of importance to him (The Wrestler).
3. Do you have a suggestion?