Purposely complex plots, such as in films like that in say, Inception, unless done extremely well, can cause more problems for viewers than enjoyment, but in the right hands, time-bending storylines can thrill and excite. Looper, directed and written by Rain Johnson and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, offers a multi-faceted combination of sci-fi and thrill ride! Making the overall experience even better from me came in a chance to sit down with Johnson and ask him about his unique movie.
I asked Johnson how he managed to “sell” his film and to convince his exceptional cast, which also includes Paul Dano and the wonderfully talented Emily Blunt, to take on the challenge. The root of my query lies in the complexity of the story, because it does not play out in a linear way, except when it does. Because Johnson’s tale takes place in the future 2044 and in the farther future too, some thirty years later, audiences truly need to pay attention. Johnson assure me he did not need to sell the film, but he did have a three minute summary of sorts of his plot, which plays out in the film’s early narration. With it we discover that time travel is illegal and mainly used to assassinate and dispose of bodies. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) lives in 2044, and he and his best friend Seth (Dano) are hit men, who, when miscreants are sent back in time, kill them.
However, really bad things begin to happen when a tyrant in the future decides to close this “loop,” by sending these assassins back to the past to be killed, thus affording the young killer to live out the next thirty years, but also know of his inevitable death. When Seth cannot kill his future self and discovers a troubling secret, he sets into motion a series of events where Joe (a both his current and future persona) finds himself on a run for his life. With the “loop” now open (both Joe’s in the same time period), the Joe’s, with very different agendas – since young Joe needs to kill his older self- set out to change things. Young Joe’s flight takes him to a farm where he encounters a woman (Blunt) and her son, who hold the key to altering the future and saving Joe’s life. All the while the older Joe works to right things at any cost. Whew! As complicated as this sounds, the experience is exciting and wholly captivating and filled with action, suspense and intrigue – oh and violence – loads of graphic violence.
Gordon-Levitt, facial features altered by prosthetics and make up, impresses again as the younger Joe. Honestly, the make-up (an effort to give him facial qualities similar to Willis) distracted me more than it worked. Still, that aside, he does capture the mannerisms and vocal qualities of his older counterpart, and no one can beat Willis when it comes to surly and ass-kicker and in Looper, he holds back nothing – Joe willingly killing and causing mayhem. I almost didn’t recognize Blunt when she first appears on screen behind a double-barrel shotgun – a mother who’ll stop at nothing to protect her child. But the stand-out performance in the film comes from five-year-old Pierce Gagnon, who according to Johnson memorized all of his lines quickly, and capture with ease, the essence of his complex character. I agree – Gagnon, at such a young age, has pure natural talent.
Looper is a dark film, one with a bad guy protagonist in both personas and one with a bleak outlook. Of note, too, is Johnson’s ability to set a sci-fi film mainly on an extremely un-futuristic farm in the middle of Kansas and still hold on to all that makes science fiction science fiction.