Joseph Gordon-Levitt once again teams up with Rian Johnson for the time travel based, high-concept science fiction of Looper. It’s about a ‘Looper’ called Joe, played by Levitt, a mob hitman who kills targets sent back to the past. He discovers that the mob wants him to ‘close the loop’ and kill his future self.
It’s a fascinating premise, and it succeeds admirably by not focusing on time travel and the endless paradoxes that come with it, even finding time to put in a joke about it. Also, it distances itself from other science fiction films, it remains gritty, with more realistic violence than you’d expect from a film like this, which lets it stand out in the crowd. Straight from the word go, it’s clear that, as a writer, Johnson has developed a lot; the plot feels much fresher than Brick, which felt too derivative, whereas Looper can stand on its own two feet as an original and interesting idea. However, while the idea is excellent and the execution very good, the dialogue feels poor; cumbersome and cliche, it drags down the film a little.
That’s an issue with all of Looper really; everything seems inconsistent. From the good idea but lackluster writing, to the great visual effects, but some awful hair and makeup when we see Joe somewhere between his being Levitt and being Willis.
The cast isn’t quite as inconsistent, but it does have some issues. Levitt and Willis have excellent chemistry together, and manage to convincingly come across as different versions of the same person, and their scene’s, which are dynamic and most well-written in the film, are easily the highlights.
Jeff Daniels is also a joy with his limited screen time, bringing a strong presence and an excellent dry wit to Abe, who essentially ‘runs’ the Loopers, for want of better phrasing. The same however, cannot be said for Emily Blunt, who has very little chemistry with Levitt, and is painfully underwritten, so none of her scenes work particularly well.
The highlight of the cast is a child actor, Pierce Gangon, who plays Cid. His performance is powerful, layered and excellent, although, based on the character he played and how the character was written, I struggled to take him seriously, which is a shame, because he really runs away with the movie.
One thing Johnson does very well, as with Brick, is write final acts. They’re always effective and gripping, and this one easily makes up for issues with the film’s middle section and lackluster writing. This isn’t to say that the ending is unpredictable, but it’s executed so well, and is clear proof that he’s slowly but surely growing as a writer.
While it has some excellent moments, Looper just feels too inconsistent in so many departments, from its writing to its acting. The premise is excellent and execution is good enough, the film engages throughout and is sometimes incredibly gripping, but it seems so rough around the edges that a lot of it doesn’t work or some together the way it should. A shame, as there are some great ideas at work here.