2012, Rian Johnson
I want to like Looper more than I do. I also want Looper to be better than it is. Rian Johnson's first film, Brick, is one of my all-time favs, and Brothers Bloom, his sophomore release, had a wonderfully curious energy, so I'm a fan. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, for his part, has gone from being a solid child and teen star to one of the most versatile and interesting actors of his generation... a career shift that not coincidentally started with Brick. Yes, I'm a bit of a fan of his too. So collectively, with Looper, a mini Brick reunion, I was both excited (and being a science fiction buff, even more so) and rooting for the picture.
It would be wrong to say I had high expectations, since I've stopped actively reading news and rumour websites and a multitude of reviews, I go into films with a lot fewer preconceived notions about what films should be. Looper I did enjoy at the time, but, many weeks later, it hasn't resonated as strongly as I'd hoped. Johnson's future is a conscious and imaginative one, extrapolating upon society current progress, establishing a broader expanse between the rich and the poor, while at the same time indulging in flights of fancy like hover-cycles and, yes, time travel.
The crux of the film, in which Levitt, a hit man in the present for mobsters from the future, has to "close his loop" by killing the future version of himself is at once a curious and ridiculous premise. The film does make something out of it though, examining both the emotional toll being a killer (and then having to face killing one's self) and the odd cat and mouse game between the two versions of himself. The film invests well in Levitt's character, lesser so in his future version played by Bruce Willis, so at times they feel like they could be the same person, but that connection doesn't hold constant throughout the film.
I think the film would have benefitted from a bit more focus on the hide and seek of Levitt and Willis squaring off. It instead opted for more of a lay and wait approach which permitted the film more characters (including a never unwelcome cameo from Garrett Dellahunt, a great supporting role from Jeff Daniels, and a surprisingly effective Paul Dano) and story development, but equally reduced the spectacle and goofy pleasure the film could have had. The laws of time travel, as appearing in this film anyway, are vague and hard to pin down (particularly, how does one's injury today, affect someone from the future, today?) If you don't think too hard about it, the film holds up, but scrutinizing too much will lead to headaches.
It's evident Johnson had loftier ambitions for Looper than a straight-up action movie or typical Hollywood sci-fi but without ever actually abandoning those tropes it sinks his film. It doesn't have the budget of a summer blockbuster, so it should rely on the actors and script more fully. In trying to deliver the chase sequence and the shootouts, it sinks the film somewhat to B+ movie levels. In other words, enjoyable, but not great. Good, but not dazzling. I liked it, but not enough to want to watch it again.