Another Look at ‘Looper’

DIR/WRI: Rian Johnson  PRO: Ram Bergman, James D. Stern   DOP: Steve Yedlin ED: Bob Ducsay  Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels

In the not too distant future, time travel has been invented but is strictly outlawed. A rule obeyed by all except major crime syndicates who send their enemies, opponents and problems back to the past to be eliminated. The assassins in the present who carry out this dirty work are known as Loopers.

During a vivid opening sequence, various victims materialise in a remote cornfield to be immediately dispatched by a shotgun blast. The unquestioning trigger man is Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who accepts the illicit money involved and the inevitable Faustian pact where one day his future self will suffer the same fate.

It’s a nifty premise and Joe receives a salient lesson in the folly of showing mercy when a colleague Seth (Paul Dano) allows his future self escape. In a startling scene, the older Seth is fleeing when his body is remotely afflicted by torture being inflicted on his younger self. The nightmarish effect is truly memorable and also weirdly subtle being bereft of blood but full of horror.

Joe is quickly plunged into the exact same dilemma when his older self proves an elusive target as he arrives for execution. Basically outwitted by himself, young Joe must track down older Joe or suffer the wrath of his criminal master. Older Joe is played by Bruce Willis and the physical discrepancy between the two actors is literally bridged by prosthetic work to Gordon-Levitt’s nose and face as well as tweaking his eye colour to match Willis.

To the film credit this casting choice is probably the biggest leap an audience has to take in a rare film where style and substance are in perfect equilibrium. Johnson doesn’t oversell his vision of the future. He shies away from Bladerunner scale to deliver a slightly advanced but recognisable universe where the focus is rightly kept on the engrossing story.

The film drops slightly short of masterpiece status mostly due to the unsavoury nature of older Joe’s mission in the past which involves child murders. The intensity of the storytelling also fades somewhat when the action switches to a remote farm as Emily Blunt’s character is belatedly introduced. However, it rouses itself for a surprisingly emotive and vaguely positive ending where a sliver of hope emerges.

Naturally, the myriad of sci-fi antecedents and influences are obvious throughout with Willis’ presence in particular recalling the not overly dissimilar Twelve Monkeys. Still, Johnson has largely plotted his own distinctive path to create a sharp intelligent blockbuster. This is slick, smart and visually impressive stuff.

James Phelan

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
118mins

Looper is released on 28th September 2012

Looper –  Official website

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Cinema Review: Looper

snooker looper

DIR/WRI: Rian Johnson  PRO: Ram Bergman, James D. Stern   DOP: Steve Yedlin  ED: Bob Ducsay Cast: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels

We are long overdue a great time travel adventure. Sure, we’ve had dramas such as Midnight in Paris and mind-bending thrillers such as Primer, but there hasn’t been a proper edge-of-your-seat time travel movie since 12 Monkeys, nor a fun one since the Back to the Future trilogy.

Thank goodness for Looper. Clever without being baffling, fun without being silly, Rian Johnson’s film balances its own mythology with a pulp thriller story that feels simultaneously classical and entirely new. Johnson, the writer/director of cult high school noir Brick and the seen-by-few (and liked by fewer) The Brother’s Bloom, is a film fan’s filmmaker, a man who has imbibed the Hollywood genre greats, and who now pours those ideas through the blender of his brain and creates some fascinating, if hitherto not entirely successful chimaeras. Looper’s influences are evident and many, and surprisingly none of them are films about time travel.

Starting off 30 years from now in Kansas City, Looper is set in an America wracked with colossal rates of unemployment and homelessness, but where the well-to-do dress like guest stars on Mad Men. A comment on the trajectory of modern America, sure, but that’s where the social commentary ends. Another 30 years down the road, in 2072, time travel technology has been developed, but only for use by the wealthiest and most duplicitous of people. Rather than risk a Back to the Future-style paradox, the global mob of 2072 uses time travel for the sole purpose of disposing of corpses – easily tracked in the future, easily gotten rid of in the past.

In 2042, mob goons called loopers are assigned the task of gunning down newly materialised mob targets the moment they appear from 2072. It’s good work if you can get it, but it comes at a high price. Looper Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is happy with his lot; splashing his cash on cars, drugs and a prostitute with a heart of gold. But things get thrown for a loop for him (sorry) when his latest target is revealed to be himself, 30-years-older, and now looking like Bruce Willis. Willis knocks his young self out and goes on the run, set on a mission to alter the future, while Gordon-Levitt must track down his older, wilier self while evading his own bosses at looper HQ, who can instantly take out the elusive Willis by killing Gordon-Levitt, thereby erasing Willis from the timeline.

Ostensibly a chase movie through a neo noir future, Looper keeps its story energised by keeping the time travel repercussions as simple as possible. As long as Willis is still there, he knows Gordon-Levitt will grow up to be him. As Gordon-Levitt acquires fresh cuts and injuries, Willis develops brand new, decades-old scars.

Looper is as smart in its dialogue as it is in its ideas. Gordon-Levitt and Willis spar over their shared memories in the film’s most cleverly crafted scene. Looper boss Abe (a delightfully sneering Jeff Daniels) chastises his young employees for dressing in suits and ties, an out-dated fashion now brought back by the Mod-like gangsters – fashion has a cyclical nature, underscoring the film’s central theme. Language, too, has come full circle; the word ‘blunderbuss’ has been uprooted from the history books to refer to the loopers’ heavy-duty shotguns.

Johnson’s team have crafted a terrific thriller here, with crisp, bright imagery and coherent editing. The score hums and clicks with electronic, industrial sounds overlaying traditional instruments. Gordon-Levitt, belatedly (by a decade) the in-demand actor of the hour, is tough yet endearing in the lead role, and the fine makeup that makes him a believable antecedent to Bruce Willis (most notably wearing Willis’ curling nose) never distracts from his performance. Willis plays the weary, broken-hearted avenger he’s based the last decade of his career on with expected fluency. Only Johnson regular Noah Segan disappoints, in the underdeveloped role of token villain Kid Blue.

The film’s seemingly boundless energy comes to a crashing halt in the third act as Willis heads off on his mission and Gordon-Levitt hides out at the rural home of Emily Blunt’s suspicious Sara. The rhythm of the film goes all to hell for nearly 20 minutes, and the temptation to, like the characters in the movie, repeatedly glimpse at your watch is hard to resist. But this is all forgiven in a shocking, brilliantly conceived final quarter hour, that is as exciting as it is philosophical.

Aside from that late lull, the film’s most troubling aspect is its narration, lazily used to explain its mythology and technology, and it’s left unclear from where or when (or on what timeline) Gordon-Levitt is narrating. But Looper succeeds in making its world easily accessible, and more impressively manages to make its two anti-heroes – one a junkie out to kill his future self, the other so hell-bent on vengeance he will stop at nothing to do what he insists is right – likeable and worthy of our attention.

With echoes to films as eclectic as Witness and Akira and with a finale drawing on the magnificent climax of the supposedly inimitable Russian classic Come and See, Looper is a minor triumph of genre-bending entertainment.

David Neary

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
118mins

Looper is released on 28th September 2012

Looper –  Official website

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‘Movie Fest’ Returns to Dublin 8th/9th September to Preview Major New Cinema Releases

(Stitches)

The second annual Movie Fest, inspired by the massively successful “Comic Con” event held in the US, will take place at Cineworld Cinemas in Dublin on  8th and 9thSeptember. Movie Fest will screen six movie premieres over the weekend, none of which will have been seen in Irish cinemas.

 

The first Movie Fest in August 2011 saw sold-out houses for two solid days at Cineworld for a variety of screenings, presentations, previews, and hot-off-the-presses movie merchandise. Four confirmed films are Looper starring Bruce Willis, the new thriller Premium Rush starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the new animated film Paranorman, from the makers of Coraline, which is currently the best reviewed movie at the box office in the US. The director of Paranorman, Chris Butler, will be flying in to make an appearance and talk to the Movie Fest audience. Conor McMahon’s award-winning Irish comedy horror film Stitches will also have its premiere at the event.

 

Looper, directed by Rian Johnson, is a chase movie across two different time zones that will have fans of the genre on the edge of their seats. In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Things take a dramatic turn when 25-year-old killer Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is forced to hunt his older self (Bruce Willis). The wildly imaginative animation Paranorman tells of a misunderstood 12 year old boy who takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries old curse. Premium Rush is an adrenaline-fuelled ride through the street of Manhattan courtesy of filmmaker David Koepp. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a bike messenger who picks up an envelope that attracts the interest of a dirty cop, who pursues the cyclist throughout the city. Stitches, Conor McMahon’s horror / comedy shot completely in Ireland, stars comedian Ross Noble as Stitches the clown who, having had a fatal accident at the hands of a group of children, comes back from the dead to wreak revenge on them.

Over the weekend, movie fans will be treated to the six film premieres including two mystery film screenings, exclusive trailers and footage from Comic-Con and can expect to see clips from movies like Iron Man 3, Die Hard 5, Seven Psychopaths, Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part 2, Neil Jordan’s Byzantium and many more. Day tickets will be available for purchase for the event, and each day will include the high-profile feature film previews along with presentations from all major Hollywood studios including Warner Bros., Disney, Universal, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox and Paramount.

These presentations will feature a huge selection of extensive never-before-seen footage and trailers from some of the most highly anticipated films of 2012 and 2013. Exclusive footage direct from the recent Comic-Con in San Diego will be shown at Movie Fest 2012, including extended clips, trailers and behind the scenes snippets from upcoming blockbusters.

The response from movie-goers at last year’s Movie Fest was massively positive, with the event bringing back a sense of genuine excitement and anticipation for Hollywood movies. Many fans purchased tickets for the whole event, immersing themselves in movies from early morning until late at night over the course of the two days. Last year’s event had the first public screenings in Ireland of films such as Drive and Fright Night.

‘We knew there was an appetite for this kind of event in Dublin, which was why we initially decided to start the event last year, but the response from film fans was actually more overwhelming than we thought it might be,’ commented Vincent Donnelly, creator of Movie Fest. ‘We sold out each of our screenings last year over the two days, and there really was a sense of a proper festival, a real event, where movie fans could talk about movies and get a sense of genuine excitement about upcoming blockbusters. With our planned line-up this year, we know we’ll have a lot in store to make this year even better, particularly with filmmakers attending to introduce their films and discuss their work with fans.’

Movie Fest takes place at Cineworld Cinemas, Parnell Centre, Dublin on September 8th / 9th. Full details can be found on www.movies.ie/fest. Tickets are available from Cineworld.

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