Film Review: Looper

I’ve always had a slight preconceived idea that Looper was nothing more than a throw away action shoot’em up film best avoided. And I’m not sure why. Spend 30 seconds searching the reviews online about the film and you’ll quickly see that people rate it. IMDB and Metacritic both favour it and even the good Doctors’ don’t hate it. So where on earth I got the notion that it was best avoided I don’t know. So I thought it was about time to see whether the wider world was on the money, or in fact if my preconceived ideas would prove to be true and leave me with a wasted, disappointed evening.

And I can now say, with hand on heart, that as is usual with preconceived ideas, mine were wrong. Slightly. Well quite a lot actually. Looper is a good film but it’s a film with some faults. Firstly, the production team seem to have created a world that is confusing – it’s set 30 years into the future and yet time appears to have moved forward while going backwards. I know that technology now marches forward at a relentless pace that things may be invented in the next 30 years that fit the world they create but you never feel comfortable with that world. It never fits together. There is a sense that everything is dark and broken and run down; but at the same time everything is technologically advanced. The Mazda MX5 drives past the floating hover bike as it transverses the slums of the bankrupt city. It feels like a puzzle where all the pieces fit together perfectly but the finished picture just doesn’t make sense.

But you can forgive it that because it has a plot that is not only gripping and tense but also clever and imaginative. Yes, it’s borrowed ideas from a large amount of source materials but it never feels like it’s just shamelessly stealing from them. It’s enjoyable whether or not you know which ideas and principles are new and which are looped. It is more dark psychological thriller than basic shoot’em action that will push you to the edge of your seat, but to ensure it never leaves the main stream doesn’t quite have the guts to knock you off.

All that said, there is a couple of issues with Looper that I just cannot ignore. And Bruce Willis brings them all back with him. Firstly, the pace of the movie is such that it never lets you stop for breath. It’s not quite blink and you miss it, but certainly sneeze and you probably will. Reviews online seem to place this fast pace as an attempt ensure the film never gives you long enough to question the specifics of the time travel and future and past meeting in the way they do to close the loops. I agree with this but think it’s also a case that they just packed too much into the film as well. There are too many characters in play to make a concise plot. It feels more like they’ve taken every bullet point idea they had for the plot and fleshed them out into real sentences but forgot to cut any out of the final finished copy. And therefore, to ensure you don’t end up with a Wolf of Wall Street length film that becomes naturally unappealing, they’ve paced it so fast it glosses over everything.

Secondly, there is Bruce Willis himself. He just doesn’t fit. He just looks all wrong. I can’t decide at what point people thought that he would be the perfect actor to play this action hero come bad guy that this film centres around. The problems he creates start off as soon as he comes face to blunderbusting face with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Throughout the film Gordon-Levitt’s face is digitally enhanced to help create a resemblance to Willis, but that resemblance just doesn’t work when you ask yourself the question – how old are they meant to be? There is supposed to be 30 years between them, and when you think about it, that might work on paper – 30 year old fit healthy Gordon-Levitt becomes 60 year old fat, bald Willis, yep Ok – but on screen it just looks odd and unconvincing. And then Bruce gets a gun. Now I’m sorry, 25 years ago Bruce Willis could pick up a gun shout “Yippee-ki-yay…” and look cool. When he’s fat, bald and old it just looks wrong. It’s like the drunken uncle dancing at the wedding. Nobody wants to see it. And what makes it worse is that at one point he stands there blasting off round after round killing man after man in a blaze of glory and without warning might even mention maternal sex.

And finally you get to what for me is the biggest problem with the film. As I pointed out earlier, the film never stops long enough to let you question the whole time travel loop paradox problems – but there is one major paradox that the film actually uses in its plot, attempts to explain and fails miserably in anything other than leaving you perplexed and disappointed. Bruce Willis’ memory.

There is a joke with Lord of Rings that why go to all the trouble and danger of walking the Ring to the mountain when Gandalf, who has giant flying birds at his command could have just flown safely over the mountain and dropped the Ring in! And Looper is slightly the same. We have a movie in which Bruce Willis must have all the memories of Gordon-Levitt, after all they are the same person who has lived the same life and yet, when needed he can remember what happens and where he goes, but when it would ruin the plot he can’t.

In real life he’d know how everything plays out. How the cat and mouse chase concludes and where he needs to go to fulfil his goals but in reality that’d make the last third of the film surplus to requirements and so we have a quick chat in a diner to try and explain why memories don’t work like that – honestly, short term memory loss from the time travel would be a more plausible explanation that the convoluted reasoning they come up with.

Don’t let the problems with Looper put you off because I seriously enjoyed it, but only when I got my head around the fact that all of its problems are there because they are and just forget about it. It’s more about the emotions and senses it creates in you as the action ramps up and the cat and mouse chase between Gordon-Levitt and Willis grows to its climax then what you are left with is a film that will leave you satisfied and entertained but slightly underwhelmed. You certainly won’t be calling for a sequel and I know that if I want a psychological thriller there are other movies I’d chose before I’d watch it again, but the preconceived ideas that kept me from watching Looper for so long were I can finally say, misplaced.

8 out of 10 stars (8 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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