(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 15 October 2012, retrieved from http://newindianexpress.com/entertainment/reviews/article1297367.ece)
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Pierce Gagnon, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels
Director: Rian Johnson
Rating: 4 stars
For more than twenty years, time-travel has been the domain of parody. Every now and again, books such as Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife reiterate to us that it should remain the domain of parody. But then, Rian Johnson proves that time-travel needn’t be confined to sappy romance, futuristic cities, encounters with savage tribes, and pseudo-scientific gobbledygook.
Looper opens to Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) practising French phrases in a lonely field. Suddenly, something startles us, and his reaction makes us gape. We’re told what’s going on through Joe’s narrative. The line that really draws us into the paradox of the story is this: “Time travel has not yet been invented, but it will be thirty years from now.”
The story weaves between 2044 and 2074, with a strange link that could turn out to be tenuous enough to eliminate, or strong enough to make one compromise on all one’s principles to save. After telling us who a “looper” is, Joe reflects sardonically that they’re not the kind of people who think too far ahead. The idea that controls the story is the concept of “closing a loop”.
Now, how does a two-hour action film with minimal skin-show, no romance, and hardly any killing keep us entertained? It makes us think. Looper stands out from the others of its rather common genre because it doesn’t leave us in a mess of impossibilities and coincidences – it appears completely plausible in its universe, because it coaxes us into believing there’s no such thing as a loose end, and no such thing as continuity.
We aren’t sure what to expect from a film that refuses to be formulaic. Subplots that seem significant turn out to be incidental, and seemingly random lines turn out to be crucial. We’re in a world where a don tells a young man, “I cleaned you up and put a gun in your hand.” When the axis of this world intersects with that of a single mother and problem child, the film builds to a climax that sidesteps predictability.
This is the sort of film that allows Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt to explore their thespian skills, and their dynamic is critical because of their relationship with each other. But the real star of the film is Pierce Gagnon, who seals his place among the creepy kids of cinema, even while demanding our pity and concern.
Despite the utterly impossible premise of the film, we find ourselves empathising with the conundrums the characters face, and relate to problems that would never arise in our own universes. The restrained dialogue lets the story flow, while its studied lack of melodrama does away with the need for tough-guy lines.
The Verdict: Looper is a thoroughly enjoyable film that injects life into an idea that we may have dismissed as overdone.