Looper (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Looper (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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It's hard to put a finger on the pulse of your own apathy sometimes.

Frustrated, I looked at readings, reviews, smoke signals. Nada. The depths of my indifference were unmoved. I guess I'm going to try and talk this out since ending a review on two sentences won't do any of us any good.

But before we go into anything, you do have to understand that Looper is a convoluted time travel movie that directly tells you not to think about how convoluted time travel is. Don't bump your head on the way through.

"Hey, Paul Dano, let's go pick up chicks!" "I dunno, that looks like a building." "Maybe a building can be a chick, Paul Dano. Think about it." "No."

Ah, but maybe if it was only about time travel. Set in 2044, one out of every ten people also has telekinetic powers, AKA TK. Most people don't have TK worth anything, but one young boy, Cyd, may be the most powerful of them all. Unfortunately, in 2074, he'll kill a man's wife. That man, Joe (Bruce Willis), gets in a time machine to kill the young boy. If you've seen a Terminator movie, it's pretty much the same thing only a little goofier.

That goofiness comes from the movie's choices, which are all of the one step forward/one step backward variety. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the younger version of Joe the future killing machine, and has to face himself down otherwise young Cyd may never become the superhuman savior of the human race.

Levitt's facial prosthetic here, designed to make him look more like Willis, is unconvincing, especially the drawn on caterpillar eyebrows. He's solid otherwise, as the movie very carefully and cleverly plays with audience expectations, making the Younger Joe a gruff young idiot at the start who's fairly unlikable and greedy, while Older Joe comes off as sympathetic, determined to avenge his wife's death while preserving his own timeline. By the end of the film the sympathies have reversed, with Younger Joe learning humility and sacrifice, while Older Joe has committed several ugly atrocities in the name of preserving a future that may or may not be an impossibility.

Emily Blunt shows up as Cyd's mother on the farm, and manages just as many sun dappled scenes of hard sweaty farm work as we were handed back in The Lucky One. Her attempts at an American drawl are exaggerated to cartoonish levels, and her attempts to be tough to Joe just meet shrugs. Luckily he has ample mommy issues to work through or this relationship would be fairly dull.

Old Joe is an unstoppable killing machine from the future! And by machine I don't mean 'cyborg' this time around.

This is all set in future Kansas, which is desolate in a variety of interesting ways. From the sugar cane crops that global warming has allowed to thrive to the solar panel conversions to every trashed car on the street, we get the idea of a very ugly, unpleasant future in store for the world. It's a wonderfully realized world that confirms a lot of dystopian fears, including the cyclical nature of anarchy and totalitarianism.

Speaking of, Looper's message is about self sacrifice (down to a very literal point): there comes a time where a society's selfish ways can ensure its future destruction. This is mirrored constantly throughout the film, as personal obsessions lead to unpleasant murder after unpleasant murder.

But maybe that's an issue as well. The cyclical nature of the universe is is a constant, and it's up to us to break that loop. The idea that an interesting and almost introspective time travel narrative is window dressing to a backdoor superhero origin story is insipid. Over and over again, we just get the same bland movie.

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Posted by Danny

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