If you’ve just about given up on Hollywood’s ability to make memorable, original, thrilling films, then you owe it to yourself to see Looper (R16).
In 2005 American writer and director Rian Johnson made a name for himself with his Brick – something that is far too rare in this day and age; a smart and original film made with a singular vision and sense of purpose.
Johnson’s second film, The Brothers Bloom, was a quirky caper that attracted a strong cast and looked nice but left little of an impression with audiences or critics. In fact, after The Brothers Bloom, I couldn’t help wondering if Johnson only had one good film in him. But Looper proves me wrong.
Set in a broken down 2044, the sci-fi action thriller follows the fate of Joe, a hitman for the mob. Unlike your typical killer, Joe’s job involves whacking people from the future and getting rid of their bodies.
Time travel has not been invented in 2044 but it has in 2074 so when the mob wants someone out-of-the-picture, they send them back to guys like Joe, who are known as loopers, who kill them, thereby erasing them from the future.
The reason? CSI techniques in the future have become so advanced it’s almost impossible to get away with killing anyone.
The less you know about Looper, the better but the basic premise is that one day the future sends Joe his older self to dispose of.
Understandably he hesitates to pull the trigger and his older self escapes, creating all sorts of problems for the mob and potentially the space-time continuum.
Joe is played by both 31-year-old Joseph Gordon-Levitt and 57-year-old Bruce Willis.
Gordon-Levitt sports a prosthetic nose to make him look more like Willis. The two blokes are joined in the cast by Emily Blunt as a solo mother who gets caught up in the plot and Jeff Daniels as the crime lord in charge of the loopers.
Looper looks and sounds terrific but what sets it apart is the strength of its ideas, writing and performances.
Johnson takes a bunch of concepts we’ve seen before and mixes them in a new and heady way.
He is also a master of dialogue and Looper is full of witty, tantalisingly written exchanges.
Its vision of the future may be bleak but wry humour endures.
Looper gets its casting right with Gordon-Levitt delivering his second knockout turn of the year after The Dark Knight Rises, Willis brings a soulful grief to his performance and the English Blunt demonstrates an unforeseen gift for toughness; the woman handles a shotgun like she grew up in Texas.
Daniels isn’t in it much but he makes a worryingly likeable gangster.
Johnson’s previous movies have revealed a love for quirk.
He has a thing for hats and likes to do unexpected things with language.
For example, in 2046 the guns loopers use are large-barrelled weapons called blunderbusses.
For many, these kinds of touches will be the icing on the cake but personally I find them distracting.
Not that I’m complaining. Looper is easily one of the most interesting and exciting films of the year; a film that engages both the adrenal glands and the brain in a very satisfying way.
Bottom line: Kind of awesome.