If Christopher Nolan has taught us anything, it’s that if you give an indie director a Hollywood studio-sized budget, the results will be amazing. The writer/director of Memento has stunned audiences and critics with his Dark Knight trilogy and Inception, and is now a household name.
Taking a cue from Warner Bros’ playbook, TriStar Pictures has given writer/director Rian Johnson the chance to shine after turning heads with his 2005 debut Brick, which has amassed quite the following since. Like Nolan, Johnson gives us a brilliant big budget action film in the form of Looper.
The year is 2044 in a dystopian Kansas. Time travel will be invented 30 years from now, but will be deemed illegal right away, used only by the criminal underground. When the mob in the future wants someone out of the picture, they send the person to the past where they are killed by a looper, a specialized assassin. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of the youngest loopers, and one of the best. Unlike his fellow loopers, Joe looks to better his life, saving his money to eventually move to France.
However, the mob opts to “close the loop” on Joe, sending his future counterpart (Bruce Willis) back to the past for Joe to take out. However, Old Joe gets the jump on him, and runs, making Joe’s life a lot more complicated. Finding out about his predicament Joe’s boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) puts a hit out on both Joe and Old Joe. While on the run, Joe runs into sugar cane farmer Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon), who have some bizarre secrets of their own.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt re-teams with his Brick director Johnson, and, once again, amazes with his performance. Brooding and determined, yet emotional and caring, Levitt’s Joe is a complex character, and is incredible to watch. Bruce Willis, in turn, is equally intense to watch. Willis’s deadpan delivery and sardonic humor bring a whole new dimension to the film, and his interactions with Levitt are fascinating to watch.
Johnson’s phenomenal screenplay and eye for detail make Looper a visceral treat. The action is, naturally, amazing to watch, which will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. But it’s the heart of the story, what both Joe and Old Joe choose to do in order to survive and make things right is immensely compelling, giving a human element to the movie, which is absent from many sci-fi action films these days (Dredd, for example). Johnson manages to bring the spirit and humanity of an indie film, and infuses it with big budget action and special effects, very similar to what Christopher Nolan has been doing for the past decade. Perhaps this will be the way of film-making for the future, and the future is looking bright.
FINAL VERDICT: Looper is a brilliant sci-fi film with an indie movie spirit at its core. Writer/director Rian Johnson proves he can stand in the big leagues and make a superior movie without compromising his integrity as a filmmaker. With stunning performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, eye-popping action, and an ending that will leave you speechless, Looper is definitely one that will leave you talking for years to come.