Oct 22, 2012

[Movies] Looper (2012)

I think Doctor Who articulated it best when the titular character described time travel as being, "it's more like a big bowl of wibbly wobbly timey wimey... stuff." And those terms probably remain more accurate and precise than some of the other ways that folks have tried to examine time travel.

Time travel is one of those core science fiction plot devices commonly used to explore various concepts and ideas. It's certainly not ground that is meant to be taken lightly since it can have a lot of implications from a quantum physics perspective. Let's face it, nobody likes it when you play around with the realm of cause and effect and how that can snowball out of control to mean any number of things.

Looper turned out to be a very interesting take on this concept set against a rather unique story of its own. Like all other time travel movies, it has its own set of rules that defines how things operate and once you understand them, you'll pretty much get how things should go from there. It doens't make the movie predictable at all nor does it present itself as being overly complicated.

I wouldn't say that this is a dumbed down version of other movies like Inception, but it's certainly not as complicated. At the same time, it's also not as easy to grasp and over thinking some of the various plot threads and how the pan out can be very confusing indeed.

Synopsis: Looper is a 2012 science fiction movie written and directed by Rian Johnson, the same man behind two other movies that I've enjoyed in the past - Brick and The Brothers Bloom. The movie had been selected as the opening film of the 2012 Toronto Film Festival in early September.

The movie immediately sets up the unique premise of its reality at the very start of things. In the future, time travel is developed but is immediately outlawed. However vast criminal organizations continue to use the technology in secret in order to efficiently dispose of those who go against their wishes. These victims are sent back in time with a hood over their heads and their hands bound together and are immediately killed upon arrive in the relative past - 30 years prior in 2044. These executioners are known as Loopers since one day they know they will be expected to kill their future selves, thus closing the loop of their illegal time-travel activities.

One such Looper is Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man of diverse interests including learning to speak French as part of his plans to one day visit Paris. For the most part his life is pretty straightforward - he kills whoever gets sent back into the past for his watch and otherwise spends time at the club that his boss from the future Abe (Jeff Daniels) owns. But one-by-one it seems increasingly apparently that the bosses in the future are all "closing the loop" - which is the term of when a Looper is made to execute his future self. And Joe can't help but wonder when his ticket is coming up.

It seems oddly timely that I managed to watch this movie shortly after reading How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was another time travel story that had a paradox loop at the center of all the action. In this case, the movie had quite a number of loops going on - and I'm not just referring to the number of people killed by the Loopers. Rian Johnson, once again, has given us a delightfully challenging intellectual puzzle that doesn't necessarily require a degree in temporal mechanics or anything like that.

Clearly Johnson has become rather comfortable with working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, especially in more serious roles such as this one. And he certainly has matured into quite the skilled actor in the dramatic scene. I do wish they hadn't bothered with the prosthetics just so that he could look more like his older counterpart - the forever memorable Bruce Willis. While they were pretty good and they served their purpose in that one main scene in the diner, but that they make-up was a wee bit distracting and probably unnecessary. Joseph Gordon Levitt was already doing a great job channeling Bruce Willis and they could have followed more in Josh Brolin's shoes ala Men in Black 3.

Now time travel movies have a nasty habit of becoming overly complicated due to the sheer number of problems that time travel and lead to. And this is especially true when you have past and future versions of a single person interacting - and thus many movies and stories decide to make this absolutely forbidden (even Doctor Who has established this rule) in order to avoid too many complications. Plus there were all these nuances of a greater story to be told in terms of how America has fallen so low, why all cars seemed to be modified to run on solar power in a rather haphazard fashion or even the use of blunderbusses for the Loopers and pistols for the (quite literally) Gat Men. A lot of thought truly went into this movie and this isn't your run-of-the-mill action flick.

Instead we have a movie where a certain degree of assured causality remains in effect and is somehow enforced. Yes Bruce Willis has traveled back into his past and thus already has memories of everything that has happened. However his presence in the past is a new element for this version of his former self, and thus him being there is changing his past and eventually his own memories of events. I know, I know, the potentials for a time paradox are very high here, but believe me it all works out.

As much as the premise was intelligent and the core story quite compelling, there were certain story angles that felt like narrative dead-ends that really just cluttered things up. The best example of this is the entirely storyline involving Suzie (Piper Perabo), one of the dancer's at Abe's club. She had quite an amount of screen time and initial character build-up only for her to become so much background noise in the end. And don't get me started on the point behind the annoying Kid Blue (Noah Segan) for nothing more than comic relief at times.

Quirks in the narrative aside, Looper remains to be one of the more fulfilling movies that I've seen this year, although I can imagine a lot of people developing headaches as they try to unravel some of the potential implications of the various time travel scenarios that are woven into the story. Still, I happily rate this movie as 4.5 silver bars out of a possible 5.

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  1. you know so much! how i wish i have more time to watch movies. madownload nga ..

  2. Time travel is one subject that really amazes me and this one is action packed too so this would be a nice movie to watch.

  3. wow this is a very comprehensive movie review. Makes me want to watch this even if I'm not into sci-fi movie.:)

  4. Go, go, go! Hope you enjoy it. =)

  5. The balance between the time travel and action elements was pretty impressive.

  6. Thanks for saying so! I hope you get to see it and enjoy it as much as I did. =)

  7. Wow, so detailed movie review.. Sana mapanood ko din to.. Interesting plot.. :)

  8. Thanks for taking the time to read it - hope you enjoy the movie!