'Looper' gets a little stuck
Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 19:10
The future is given a more realistic feel, despite the invention of time travel, in the latest science fiction thriller, “Looper.” A young man gets into the “looping” business, literally meets his match, and is then thrust into an internal struggle of moral values but the boiling excitement stirred up in the first half of the movie reduces to a simmer near the end.
“Looper” stars indie actor turned Hollywood heartthrob, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“Inception”) playing a younger version of Bruce Willis’ (“Die Hard”) character, Joe. Joe’s current occupation is to kill people sent back in time from the year 2072. He is a looper. Disposing of a body in the future is a hard thing to do so the mob sends their trash to the past, and the loopers take care of the dirty work. After the looper makes the kill, they collect their sum in silver, which is attached to the victim’s back. When a looper closes their loop and throws in the towel, their self from the future is sent back in time, killed, and then they have 30 years to do whatever they want. Well, Joe never threw in the towel, but ends up with a problem when his older self is in front of him. Before he can even try to calculate the problem, he is quickly ambushed by future Joe and the chase is on. He must kill his future self before his employer kills him for not closing his loop.
The violence in “Looper” is similar to the violence in the recent sleeper-hit “Drive.” It takes the audience by surprise and adds to the film instead of muddling it up. People are cut up, shot up and blown apart throughout this movie, and all the death affects the lives of both Joes. Besides the violence, there is not much else that is shocking. The story is not terribly complex because it is stated immediately that the movie is not going in that direction. When both Joes finally run into each other, present Joe starts to question how future Joe will be affected by present Joe’s actions and he quickly interrupts him and yells, “That’s not important!” Which is true, in a way.
The story’s simplicity is the source of both strength and weakness. Present Joe narrates the story explaining that in the present day, telekinesis is a power in some people but it never really goes past levitating small objects. The drastic gap between the wealthy and the poor is there, but the most futuristic they have gotten is floating motorcycles. People look the same for the most part, and are not running around in weird cylinder-shaped clothing and neon colored dresses as most futuristic movies tend to do, pulling the reality straight out of the film. It helps the audience feel grounded. The subtle attention to production design is nice, but may have left the film lacking in the story department. There is really no emotional connection to present Joe compared to future Joe. Present Joe just comes across as a punk until the last two minutes of the film. This is a shame because his character had almost an hour to grow, but maybe that just was not enough time.
This, though, is definitely is not Gordon-Levitt’s fault. He gives an amazing performance in the first half of this movie since he looks and talks like Willis. In the opening monologue it actually sounded like Willis was doing the voiceover. Joe barely speaks in the film and, when he does, Gordon-Levitt does every little tick and word pronunciation that Willis would do. It seemed as if he followed Willis around with a video camera and recorded every single movement he made when talking and contemplating and mimicked it perfectly. But that is just it, he mimicked it, it did not feel like he put himself in it that much. Thus, in the last half of the film, he fell flat and slipped right back into his usual Gordon-Levitt delivery. Since he is a Hollywood hotshot now, his performances are more recognizable, and in this a film like this, where he had a chance to truly disappear into a role, he fell just a little bit short.
Along with Gordon-Levitt’s almost perfect performance, “Looper” has its story problems. Lacking character development and even character connection are two aspects of any type of storytelling that cannot be looked over. Besides connection issues, it dealt with the time-traveling well enough. It is no “Terminator,” but it is a sure step above “The Butterfly Effect.”
“Looper” receives 3 out of 5 stars.