Aneesh Chaganty

Looper | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2012 at 9:17 PM

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Looper

(2012, US, d. Rian Johnson)

There’s a lot to love about Looper. Unfortunately, most of these are small moments in the film and a few visual tricks here and there. For a story as hyped and marketed and interesting as Looper, I found the film bland and the writing – at times – cheap.

Let’s start with the positive: Johnson’s direction. Though I think the screenplay is where the film fell of its tracks, Johnson’s telling of the story through pacing and unique camera angles really elevated the film. I remember thinking to myself: Here is a guy who’s growing into an incredible visual storyteller and director. Here’s someone who’s not afraid to put the camera at a weird place and hold on to it for a long time. Here’s someone who takes risks. If only he had a script to back him up.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, though usually two actors who are cast very well, didn’t really stand out. A part of this is a compliment: Both actors dedicated themselves to the script and didn’t try to take the spotlight from the storytelling. But I couldn’t help but feel like they could have contributed more emotionally. I do have to hand it to Gordon-Levitt though – his ability to sound and behave like a young Bruce Willis was really exemplary.

But unfortunately, it wasn’t all good from there. My biggest problem with the script was that at times, it took the easy way out. And though there’s a lot of promise in the words on the page, one glaring cheat sticks out like a sore thumb. In Gordon-Levitt’s voiceover introduction to the world of the film, he explains how the system of Loopers work, why they exist, etc…

Here is the plot, in a nutshell: In the future, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination (logline from Sony). 

You think that’s all the story needs. It sounds complicated enough but absolutely enough to drag out 90 minutes in a feature film. But for some reason, Johnson (who also penned the screenplay) decides to throw in something else. Something so alien to the entire story, I could tell from the moment it was first introduced, it would be the thing that miraculously saved our hero in the end: telekinesis. Apparently – and Gordon-Levitt even adds this a forethought in his voiceover – a telekinesis virus has swept the future, too. And only some people have it. Seem random enough? Try watching the movie. As if time travel and time-travelling hitmen weren’t enough, telekenesis has been added to the mix – for your viewing pleasure. But on the flip side. it is introduced in a very cool way. And with all the visual tricks it allows for, I hear very few people in the audience growling. But hey, you can’t please everyone.

Furthermore, Looper loses track of its tone in the middle when it introduces another strange plot point. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that by the time Gordon-Levitt makes its onto the farm of Sara (Emily Blunt), things start to feel a little weird. Genres start to blend and tone is muddled. But not in a good way. 

I have no doubt Johnson can do better. If this film did anything for me, it impressed me with his potential. But I’m actually quite surprised not many people felt the same way about the story. Apart from the hype and marketing – which I have to say to: some of the best marketing of 2012 – there was nothing that really stood the test of time or originality here. At its best, it was a decent action film, but nothing more than that. 

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