Ever since it opened this year’s Toronto Film Festival, the buzz about Rian Johnson’s (director of ‘Brick’) third film, sci-fi action movie ‘Looper’, has been that it is the ‘new Matrix/Moon/Blade Runner’ (delete as appropriate). High praise indeed, but does the film earn it?
Set in 2047 in a broke-down American city, where we find our protagonist, Joe (Joseph Gordon- Levitt). Joe is a ‘Looper’- a mob trigger man for people sent back thirty years (from 2077, where time-travel is possible, but highly illegal) to be killed, thus making them ‘disappear’ from the future. Joe is happy with his lot- he gets high, drives expensive cars and generally does as he pleases, until his next job- to kill himself 30 years from now (Bruce Willis).
Young Joe hesitates, leaving his older self to run, and the chase begins as Young Joe looks to correct things before his boss (Jeff Daniels) finds out. Things get (even more) complicated, however, when a young mother (Emily Blunt) and her son come between them.
Thrilling in the extreme, Rian Johnson has made that step from small, independent film to big budget spectacle effortlessly, resulting in a film that is quite special. What makes 'Looper' so wonderful is that despite an enlarged budget, cleverly used effects and bigger names, the independent sensibility is retained- we aren’t spoon-fed the rules of time travel, we only know what we need to know, leaving more space for story, which holds you for all 118 minutes. Many of those minutes may be spent biting your nails, especially in the second half when the mood of the film turns from chase movie to a slower, almost Western-like atmosphere as the inevitable confrontation is awaited.
Since his days as the cheeky teen in sit-com 'Third Rock From The Sun', Gordon-Levitt has developed into an astounding movie star, blending easily into any genre he takes a shine to, and here he is no different. It takes a minute or two to get over just how much like Bruce Willis he looks (not just with the make-up, but expressions, voice, even certain movements), but then we are swept away by his dark, unflinching performance.
Blunt is equally impressive, as a hard-edged single mother with a past, and has some terrific scenes with her co-star. Willis is, by comparison, more of a presence than his younger cast mate, although he has some genuinely touching moments, and his diner scene with Gordon-Levitt is something close to Hollywood nirvana. Special praise is also reserved for Daniels, a terrifying villain who maximises his ‘less is more’ approach to wonderful effect.
Overall, a remarkable movie. A great story, terrific moments of tension, great (but not overbearing) effects, and very strong performances. ‘Looper’ is everything a modern studio movie should be.
Released September 28.