Rian Johnson’s latest film, the time travel thriller Looper, deserves the recognition of being one of the most innovative films to come out in years. It’s a bold statement to make but it’s true. The narrative of the film is complex but is cleverly constructed by a writer whose primary focus is storytelling. Although there are complex questions raised by the time travel narrative, it’s a way to become absorbed into the film so that you can piece the narrative together. Once you allow yourself to be absorbed, you’ll discover a riveting film that isn’t afraid to raise those questions because Rian Johnson trusts that the audience will conduct “cinematic surgery” while having a bit of fun in the process.
Set in the year 2040, “time travel hasn’t been invented yet but in 30 years it will have been.” 30 years in the future, time travel is invented but becomes outlawed. Criminals in the future primarily use it as means of disposing bodies by sending their targets back in time to 2044 to be assassinated. Loopers are hired contract killers who work for a criminal organization. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young hotshot looper who routinely kills to make easy money. In an isolated area surrounded by cornfields, Joe sets up a tarp and patiently waits for his target to arrive from the future. Once his target appears out of thin air handcuffed and with a bag over their head, he relentlessly shoots his target point blank.
There’s a catch to having a career as a looper. The organization that hires the loopers require each looper to assassinate their older selves sent from the future to “close to the loop.” The loopers can retire and live the next 30 years with their gold they receive once they kill their older self. Joe eventually finds himself face-to-face with his older self (Bruce Willis) who, unlike Joe’s previous targets, escapes his assassination. Older Joe sets out on a mission to hunt down a young child who grows up be The Rainmaker, a powerful crime boss who murdered Joe’s wife in the future. As young Joe frantically searches for older Joe, he discovers his own life is at risk as the crime organization wants him dead.
I hope that made sense. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also starred in Johnson’s 2005 feature debut Brick, is almost unrecognizable due to the prosthetics on his face used to make him look like a younger version of Bruce Willis. Gordon-Levitt perfectly portrayed Bruce Willis’ mannerisms. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to prove that he is a terrific actor. In the role as Joe, he starts off as this reserved criminal who shouldn’t receive any sympathy for what he does but as the film progresses, you can’t help but root for him. Despite some weak performances in the last couple years, Bruce Willis seemed to be back in the game as the older Joe. Emily Blunt, portrays Sara, a mother of the young boy that older Joe is hunting for. She is her son’s protector, as we quickly discover when young Joe shows up at her farm. Although some believe this is the point in which the film starts to lose its steam, I found it to be an interesting dynamic. You have young Joe protecting Sara and her young son from older Joe. Although you could interpret the older Joe as the villain in this scenario, he’s really not considering the reason why the older Joe wants to kill Sara’s son.
Thinking back to some of the best sci-fi films made, the focus was often centered on the story. Films of the sci-fi genre should aspire to be just like Looper, in which the focus is more on a strong script rather than special effects. Although there is a good amount of great special effects and action set pieces, Looper works because of Johnson’s impressive talent as a writer. Rian Johnson constructed a dark and bleak future that’s not so flashy as portrayed in other futuristic sci-fi films. The buildings in the futuristic world in Looper are decaying and the inhabitants seem to consist of prostitutes, homeless people, and criminals. In Rian Johnson’s vision of the future, there are advanced hovering motorcycles in which loopers use as transportation. The loopers do not wear outlandish futuristic clothing and drive modern sports cars. The more I think about it, the more I think the futuristic world in Looper draws similarities from the futuristic world in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner. As you watch Looper, you’ll discover that Johnson drew inspiration from other genre films.
Video (1080p 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer): The picture quality is extremely impressive and sharp. Sony is usually known for impressive Blu-ray releases and this disc does not disappoint. The shots of both the urban and rural landscapes are extremely detailed. The colors pop on the screen and the textures are met with clarity.
Audio: Sony’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. Sequences with gunfire and action are very striking. The dialogue is very clear and precise. This is a great film to turn up the surround sound.
The special features provided on the Blu-ray of Looper are in high definition.
- Feature commentary with Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt.
- 22 Deleted scenes (with optional commentary by Rian Johnson and Noah Segan).
- The Future From The Beginnings (Making-of Documentary)
- The Science of Time Travel
- Scoring Looper
- Looper Animated Trailer
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
After watching the feature film and the deleted scenes, it’s understandable why the scenes were left on the cutting room floor. The making-of documentary “The Future From The Beginnings” is a bit too short (only a little over 7 minutes long) but still an interesting look at the film’s production. “The Science of Time Travel” features Rian Johnson, selected cast members, and Brian Clegg (author of a book titled Build Your Own Time Machine) discuss time traveling. Also featured on the Blu-ray disc is an animated teaser trailer, which appeared online a few months back.
As mentioned before, there are a lot of questions raised due to the film’s complex narrative. It’s a film that requires your full attention and perhaps another viewing just so you can dissect the film and its suggested meanings. There have been some complaints about the lack of explanation of the time travel but I don’t think it should be explained. In a great scene at a diner, old Joe tells young Joe, “I don’t want to talk about time travel shit because if we start, we’re going to be here all day, making diagrams with straws.” This perhaps is Johnson telling the viewer that there’s just not enough time to explain. The idea of time travel is one of those complexities within the narrative but sometimes things are better left unexplained. Allow yourself to become absorbed in one of the best sci-fi films to come out in years.
Movie – 9.5/10
Picture – 9.5/10
Audio – 9/10
Special Features – 7.5/10
Click here to purchase Looper on Blu-ray/UltraViolet Digital Copy.
The Blu-ray was released on December 31st, 2012.