Director: Rian Johnson
Writers: Rian Johnson
Principal cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels
Release date: 28th January 2013.
In the year 2074, time travel has allowed criminal organisations to transport their targets back to the year 2044, there lies a hitman in waiting, a hired gun paid to simply kill the target and thus close the loop.
Joe (Levitt) is a hired gun who lives by the single rule that you never let your target escape.
But his credo will be brought into question as his next hit finds him face to face with his future self.
Director Rian Johnson has previously graced the big screen with the moral high school thriller Brick (2005) and the quirky road movie drama The Brothers Bloom (2008), the talented filmmaker has now turned his attention to the science fiction genre and a sometimes violent story that also leans heavily on the tradition of film noir.
Levitt is certainly in ascension following standout and often scene stealing support in films such as Christopher Nolan’s mind bending thriller Inception (2010) and the Batman finale The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
With Looper and the portrayal of the younger incarnation of a hitman simply known as Joe, Levitt delivers an old school film noir characterisation that almost harks back to the performances of Dick Powell and the Raymond Chandler adaptations of yesteryear, although I am sure that Chandler’s seminal detective Philip Marlowe would never be seen dead hooked to the mind bending and face changing drugs employed by Joe.
Bruce Willis demonstrates why he can sometimes be the most watchable of screen actors when given a decent script and character to sink his teeth into, the performance of an aged man attempting to escape his past is a refreshing change to the one dimensional and lightweight action roles that have lately come to epitomise his career.
The combining of the two actors is central for Looper to succeed and full marks to Johnson for opting not to visually age Levitt via some onscreen trickery but instead cast veteran Willis as the older self.
It is also a pleasure watching the old and the new come together via a diner shootout that sees present and future clash over the house special whilst each performance is delivered with enough hard boiled edginess in its respective dialogue to match the best of the film noir genre.
Emily Blunt eschews her recent quirky comedy roles for a more stylish and seductive performance that witnesses her troubled lone parent and guardian to a future mutant messiah become increasingly drawn to fugitive hitman Levitt.
Blunt expresses her character as withdrawn and troubled and is assisted by that most familiar of movie locations, the isolated backwater farmstead. The prop combined with the vague details concerning the origins to both mother and child prodigy allow them to appear as outsiders removed from a society gone wrong whilst also allowing a suitable backdrop for the redemption of Levitt’s gun for hire.
The influence of science fiction maestro Philip K. Dick can also to be found in abundance throughout Johnson’s script with time travel, common place drug culture and powerfully mutant messiahs all sharing a common bond with the ideas and themes found in the work of the influential author.
Johnson’s future world of corporate sized crime syndicates, mind bending narcotics and stylish hitmen seemingly hint at a total breakdown in the world order with a screenplay that lacks any reference to organised law enforcement or central government apart from the odd siren heard from afar.
Which perhaps explains the necessity of the escalating violence inherent within Looper’s plot, screen violence is a hot topic at present given the throwaway almost comic use of the form found in Tarantino’s current offering Django Unchained (2012), but here violence only begets more violence and forms a troubling premise for the attempt by Old Joe to escape his past whilst ultimately forming the basis for the predictable sacrifice made by Young Joe during the climatic finale scene.
But even with the predictable redemption of Young Joe and the inevitable clamour of discussion which follows every depiction of time travel brought to the screen, Johnson still manages to deliver an enjoyable slice of futuristic film noir.
Continuing the trend for stylish and intelligent science fiction thrillers such as Inception (2010), Source Code (2011) and The Adjustment Bureau (2011), Looper is a likeable albeit violent classic in the making. Recommended.