Thursday 4 October 2012

Looper (2012) - Rian Johnson

In a near future, where time travel is possible, criminals are sent back in time and disposed of by specialist assassins named Loopers. Paid large sums of money for their dirty work, these Loopers live a debauched lifestyle of drugs, sex and alcohol.  But what happens if you’re tasked with eliminating your future self?  Will you be capable of pulling the trigger?

This is the concept of Looper, the latest film from writer-director Rian Johnson.  It’s an intriguing premise that borrows heavily from The Terminator, but the film doesn’t capitalise on its potential.  It has neither the complex layers of Inception or The Matrix, nor the tightly focused revenge of The Terminator.  For a film about loops and circular narratives, there are simply too many loose ends that result in a dissatisfying denouement.  We never see the future, so never fully understand the consequences of the protagonist’s actions.  Willis even comments at one point that time travel is too complicated to explain - it's as if the film has given up trying to provide an explanation before it's begun.

Looper begins as a noir thriller, using voiceover to set the scene, high contrast lighting and featuring girls in sleazy clubs and drug abuse.  Yet as the narrative develops and the action intensifies, these elements are left behind.  The mise en scene is well constructed, though: in particular the slow-motion effects and rolling camerawork.  Johnson’s vision of the future is subtle and naturalistic, besides the odd indication of advanced technologies.  Whilst this perhaps suggests a lack of imagination, the insinuation is that the film’s events are a plausible possibility, making the audience’s suspension of disbelief easier.  Although the music isn't intrusive, the lack of sound at certain moments is powerful - from the telekinesis effects, to the ending that leaves the audience in stunned silence.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, complete with prosthetic nose and contact lenses, does a tremendous job of replicating Bruce Willis.  From subtle references, like wearing a white string vest, to the diner scene in which both actors are seen together playing the same role, Gordon-Levitt does a great job of out-Bruce-ing Willis.  Emily Blunt also provides a commendable and believable performance.  Sadly Willis is the weak link of the cast.  At least with The Terminator, Arnie is supposed to be playing a robot.  Willis is attempting to play the role slightly tongue-in-cheek, living up to his clich√©d tough guy persona with plentiful laugh-out-loud moments that ruin the tense atmosphere.

Johnson’s film lacks the philosophical debate of its sci-fi contemporaries, whilst still displaying a clever concept and a flare for cinematography.  It doesn’t live up to the hype, but it’s still a compelling film.