This post is the unedited copy of the review published at Dawn.com on 19th October 2012. Published version is liked and copied at the end of the post.
Sins of Future-Past, Recoiling in Future-Present!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Forget time travel. In the future anything can happen, because Joseph Gordon-Levitt may end up looking like Bruce Willis
In science fiction premise is everything; the more plucky and loopier (semi-pun intended, of course), the better. Ergo: Rian Johnson’s Looper, an absorbing futuristic thriller of mob hit-men snuffing people from the future, in our would-be future; Or something close to the effect.
Mr. Johnson’s sci-fi fable, where he shoos-away the mechanics of time-travel, is a perfect short-story out of pulp anthology magazines: Our future, 2044, has yet to discover time-travel, which is already banned in its future, 2074, where the law is quick to nab murderers. So whenever future-mob needs someone hit, they transport the victim, bound and face-covered, thirty years back where a specialized mob-deputy – dubbed “Looper” – takes him out. Loopers, and there are a handful, are employed by Abe (Jeff Daniels, low-key and effective), a future-traveller sent to manage these hits.
Like any work contracted by syndicated criminals, the pay-scale is ludicrously lucrative (Loopers are paid in solid silver bars, strapped to their hit’s back). Their exit strategy is simpler still; their contract ends when they shoot their future-self sent back to close “their” loop.
Now imagine this: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (always engaging), with his lip-thinned and nose prosthetically-lifted, is a young, aimless, junkie Looper called Joe with a great retirement plan: he plans to relocate to France, when he closes his loop. One “routine” day at his job – after a riveting unvaried-cycle self-centering on Joe’s colorless, and tirelessly “looping”, routine – Bruce Willis pops into frame, gag-free, beats him up and runs loose with an ulterior agenda (he has a future-wife, played by Xu Qing, he wants to live happy with).
When younger Joe wakes up, he finds a simple message from his future self: Runaway to China.
The younger version, horrified by the implications of time-space conundrums, and more-so of the mob’s doctrine on botch-ups – body parts are mangled-off, which automatically disappear on their present-self, as we see in one panic-provoking scene – he goes on the run to gun-down his future-self.
But before the body-count rumbles down, there’s a mute little scene between Mr. Gordon-Levitt and Mr. Willis in a diner (past-future selves have an ingenious way of communicating we’re shown). Mr. Willis, sparkling with anticipation of edging out a punch-line, and visible hint of madness-seen matureness, wants to take down the mob, and a mysterious evil telepathic who is closing loops in the future; Mr. Gordon-Levitt just wants Mr. Willis to roll-over and play dead – literally.
Looper, fiercely original half-way, notches down and shifts themes to Terminator-like setting when Sara (Emily Blunt, playing a variation of Sarah Conner), a single-handed farmer and her telekinetic kid Cid (the obnoxious, unsympathetic and evil-looking Pierce Gagnon), are included via a initially planted MacGuffin.
Loopers’ uncomplicated, straight-forwardness is disarming, because it maintains flight an inch or two below the show-bizzy radar of big, bombastic blockbusters. With just a few minor air-bumps that make it blink-up into sensors (re: the flaky, unoriginal stuffing of the final act), Mr. Johnson has twisted a hard-wearing, semi-burly sci-fi whose biggest suspension of belief is its insistence that Mr. Gordon-Levitt will mature into Mr. Willis thirty years from now.
Released by Tristar and Allience, Looper is rated R. There’s some body-count, female nudity, retinal-drug consuming. Kids beware, the future is unimaginably real.
Produced by Ram Bergman and James D. Stern; Written and Directed by Rian Johnson; with Cinematography by Steve Yedlin, Editing of Bob Ducsay and Music by Nathan Johnson.
Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano (in a brief, quivering role), Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Summer Qing (aka Xu Qing), Jeff Daniels and Pierce Gagnon.
The published version is at: http://dawn.com/2012/10/19/movie-review-looper/
And it looks like this on paper: