Monday, October 15, 2012

Film Review: Looper (2012)

I don't know what it is about Bruce Willis but there's something about him that makes him easy to root for. Perhaps it's because he doesn't try too hard to come across as tough or charming, or maybe it's his everyman quality. The film's in which he falls flat are inevitably the ones in which he's trying too hard to be tough, like Last Man Standing, or funny as in Hudson Hawk. Within a narrow range of roles Willis has been one of the more entertaining American actors of the last 20 years. Looper gives him a role that's right in his wheelhouse, as they say. He plays the older version of himself in a time travel action/thriller that's a bit wobbly but makes it to the finish line without going into the ditch.

Looper is set in the near-ish future (2044) when American cities, as they are wont to do in the future as imagined by filmmakers, have turned into epic slums ruled over by gangs. In the still more distant future time travel has been invented, but made illegal, and the gangs from the future send people they want whacked back to 2044 for execution and disposal. Evidently it's very hard to dispose of bodies in the far future. Loopers are the hitmen of 2044. Occasionally the person sent back to be killed is the Looper's older self. The present-day Looper gets a rich payday for this last hit and goes off to enjoy the next 30 years of his life until he's sent back to be killed by...himself. It's at this point you can begin trying to figure out the time continuum problems this creates.

All time travel movies require a certain amount of head scratching, counting of fingers, and puzzled comments along the lines of, "If he knows that in the future, why doesn't he..." Looper has its share of time travel plot holes, but no more than the average Dr Who episode, and half the fun of this kind of sci-fi story is debating the time travel paradoxes with whomever you saw the movie with. The biggest flaw I could find is that it's never explained why a Looper has to kill his older self. Couldn't another Looper do the job? This aside, Looper works well as a thriller and has more than its fair share of gunplay.

One of the more enjoyable elements in the film is its look. The production design team didn't go overboard on creating a whole new world; they just tweaked a contemporary urban look with some futuristic tech, and the result looks more plausible than most imagined near-futures. The other plus in the film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the young Bruce Willis. He does an amazing job mimicking Willis' tics and mannerism, while at the same time delivering a solid performance. What stops Looper from being even better is the addition of some characters with telekinetic powers. This serves an important plot purpose, but it feels like it came in from left field, especially because there's no explanation for why some of the population have suddenly acquired this ability. Looper is far from a great sci-fil film, but it's way better than Surrogates, Willis' last sci-fi outing.

No comments: