Looper (2012) Film Review, a movie directed by Rian Johnson and starring Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Garret Dillahunt, Pierce Gagnon, Tracie Thoms, Han Soto, Sylvia Jefferies, David Jensen, Nick Gomez, and Sam Medina.
The first half of Looper was inventive and fresh while the last quarter slowed down the pace and storytelling set up in the film’s previous sections. Time travel is a tricky subject that includes high-end mathematics, technical expertise, and a moral compass. Looper‘s writer and director Rian Johnson knew the time travel rules and placed all three on the back-burner. Instead of using time travel to change or alter some major event, Johnson made its use more intimate like Peter Hyams‘ Timecop successfully did. Because of this approach, he was able to give the characters in his film the forethought to use time as an offensive weapon.
The best and most horrific use of time as an offensive weapon was in the first act of the film with a Looper named Seth Richards (Paul Dano) and another actor (Frank Brennan). At first the viewer did not know what was going on, why words began appearing, limbs, and other body parts started disappearing. When it was finally revealed what had transpired, the brilliance of this part of the film was undeniable. It was impressive and ingenious.
The would-be gun slinger Kid Blue (Noah Segan)’s storyline seemed marginal at its outset but it turned into one of the biggest surprises that the film had in store for the viewer. His storyline even made Kid Blue’s boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), exclaim “Sshhitttt” in disbelief (a byproduct of Blue’s continuous ineptitude).
Rian Johnson’s storytelling inventiveness, carried over from Brick (Brick (2005) Film Review), did not stop with the crafting of Looper’s narrative but seeped into the membrane of the film’s lighting and cinematography with the help of cinematographer Steve Yedlin. From using a refrigerator to light a scene to camera angles, Looper told its story visually as much as it did auditorially with a great eye on the former.
For everything brought to the viewer’s attention through their eyes and ears (e.g. solar power, a new illegal drug consumed through the eye), there are many issues left unsaid: the type of present and future government that would allow time travel equipment, the most dangerous technology on the planet, to fall into the hands of criminals. This transgression is tantamount to letting nuclear weapons and their delivery systems fall into the hands of arms dealers. The viewer would think that this technology would be instantly classified and never released to the public. In Looper and Timecop, for some reason never disclosed, the technology is released to the public and it is used by criminals for personal gain. In Timecop, the United States government has the good sense to create the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC) to detect changes in time and to counter them. In Looper there is no such agency, no such personnel. Changes in the past go unchecked and self-aggrandizement is rampant. This was a strange position for the US government and the other governments in Looper to take.
Also unusual was the building up and discarding of key plotlines in Looper. (Spoiler) Bruce Willis was intent on killing Suzie (Piper Perabo)’s child (one of the most emotional moments for his character) so that the Rainmaker never existed yet was stopped by one Abe’s men. When Willis got out of that situation and was free again, he didn’t go back to finish off Suzie’s child. He instead went in search of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. Suzie’s child could have still been the Rainmaker. Willis’ character had no way of knowing that it was not so, like a Terminator, he had been systematic and killed off all the children that could have possibly been the Rainmaker. So why did he suddenly stop this course of action to go find Gordon-Levitt? To tell him that Abe and his men were dead? He could have done that after he killed Suzie’s child and had found the third one. (End Spoiler) It was never explained and opened up a narrative hole in the film.
Another distracting element in the film was the use of hover (anti-gravity) bikes. Their inclusion in Looper was completely unnecessary and introduced bad CGI into the film along the deleterious lines of the fire suit sequence in Gary Ross‘ The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games (2012) Film Review).
Cid Harrington (Pierce Gagnon) and Sara Rollins (Emily Blunt) were along the good elements in the film. Harrington’s exhibition of maturity was surprising as was Rollins’ sexuality and her use of it.
The use of time paradoxes at the beginning and at the end of Looper were effective but none more so than at the outset of the film. Looper took the viewer on a satisfying journey but it was one that could been even more satiating if the certain plot elements had been tightened up and others had not been forgotten or overlooked.