"Looper" | Movie Review
Cinema has always been fascinated with the idea of time travel. It is frequently used as a plot device in movies, not only to drive the story and characterisation forward, but also to give the audience a chance to experience the characters’ pasts and futures, or even their alternate realities.
Still, time travel in cinema is a tricky thing. One challenge for film-makers is in convincing the audience that such traversals within their stories make logical sense and are not just some gimmick to bend the minds of viewers. Therefore, past time-travel movies have seen their fair share of misses. Fortunately for Looper (118 minutes, NC16), it is one of the rare hits.
Propelled by a unique story idea, the film imagines a future where time travel is invented but outlawed. Organised crime has thought up an ingenious way to kill and dispose of bodies by sending their targets back in time to be executed by highly-trained assassins called Loopers. Where are the bodies? Who killed them? No one knows and no questions are asked.
Looper comprises of two main premises, carefully fused together by director and screenwriter Rian Johnson (Brick and The Brothers Bloom). The first is the action-driven thriller, which the film-maker and his studio heavily utitlised in their marketing campaigns to lure you to the nearest cinema. It is also where the storyline begins: when former Loopers are forcibly sent back to be executed by their younger selves, in order to give closure to “the time travel killing business”, hence “closing the loop”. Old Joe (Bruce Willis) is transported back in time to be executed by Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), but the former escapes. So it’s up to Young Joe to hunt down his older self to restore stability to his work and life… at least, for the time being.
It’s the second premise, the more character-driven but less commercially appealing one, which holds the real surprise – as revealed only when you are in the darkened theatre. While Old Joe gets stuck in his past, he takes the opportunity to find and kill the boy who will later grow up to be a figurehead in the Looper business and responsible for messing up his life. Not revealing too much and spoiling your enjoyment of the film, I’d just say that Young Joe ends up trying to protect the boy and his mother, Sara (Emily Blunt), from his older self. To all the hardcore sci-fi and action movie buffs, doesn’t this turn of event remind you of another film franchise from the early 1990s? Hint: The mother in that film series shares a similar name, but it’s Sara with a H attached to it. Perhaps, homage is what Johnson has in mind.
Lead actor, Gordon-Levitt, has proven himself to be an emerging action star, after films like Inception (2010) and Premium Rush (2012), where he shows off his acting chops while still excelling in physically demanding scenes. Willis is no stranger to the action genre, with four Die Hard movies under his belt and one more on the way (A Good Day To Die Hard). The veteran actor shows that he can still kick butts, even at the ripe old age of 57 – in fact, most of the coolest action sequences in Looper are reserved for him.
One strength of the film is that it goes deep in character studies, as we watch our protagonist (both the young and old versions) struggle with making difficult choices and great sacrifices.
On the surface, Looper may seem like an all-out futuristic action flick, but lurking underneath are life lessons and philosophical ruminations to be uncovered. For example, the word “loop” in the film’s title signifies the endless circle in life which we are all stuck in. We sit back and watch the wheels go round and round. When we grow tired of the cycle, will we have the courage to end it?
– Lan Hao Yong
*Images are sourced from Google Images
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