Looper: Keeping it simple

Back in 2006, writer/director Rian Johnson made an exceptional début with Brick, a low-budget thriller set in a southern California high school featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a teenage private eye.

Six years later, with the disappointingly mediocre The Brothers Bloom proving but a minor bump in the road, Johnson is back on course with Gordon-Levitt in time-travelling action flick Looper.

The term ‘Looper’ refers to a hitman who kills people sent back in time from the future (so that there is no dead body as evidence). The term is apt because the assassins operate under the knowledge that they will eventually have to ‘close their loop’ by killing their future selves.

The film centres on a particularly efficient Looper called Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is saving up enough money for a retirement in Paris. His plans are shattered, however, when he fails to close his loop allowing his future self (Bruce Willis) to get the better of him.

Throughout the film, writer/director Johnson cleverly evades the complications that come with time travel. Willis’s character even states, “I don’t want to talk about time travel shit.” Viewers who want to see a true science fiction film may be disappointed by this (the time machine, resembling an old-fashioned scuba diver mask, is also rather lackluster), but the film proves to be perfectly entertaining and well-made overall.

Cinematographically, the film is a work of art. Motifs like close-ups of cigarette smoke and ticking clocks are intricately placed, the camera work while Gordon-Levitt is on an acid trip is breathtaking, and the details necessary to maintain consistency between the future and current Joe are painstakingly accurate. In a diner scene, for example, we see a newly injured, bandaged ear on Gordon-Levitt… and a newly disfigured ear on Willis.

Another near flawless aspect is the casting. Veterans Bruce Willis and Jeff Daniels bring their usual prowess to the screen, while Paul Dano and Emily Blunt successfully transform into roles unlike any they have played before.

The main acting highlight, however, comes in the form of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who supposedly spent hours in make-up having prosthetics applied so that he would look more like Bruce Willis. Though his contrived voice and strangely perfect eyebrows are distracting at first, he is able to capitalize on the disguise and adopt a convincing tough guy persona.

Overall, Looper is the proof we needed that originality hasn’t died in Hollywood. It also reinforces the fact that Sci-fi movies can be smart (Gattaca), imaginative (2001: A Space Odyssey), or just plain exciting (Dredd).

With Looper, we get the pleasure of a sci-fi film that does all three, and does them masterfully.

DVD Review: John Carter

John Carter, a tale of otherworldly mysticism, came out on DVD last week. Upon its release, the Disney movie received many an unfavourable review which undoubtedly had an adverse affect on its box office performance. Much like Mirror, Mirror, which I reviewed a few days ago, I believe a lot of these reviews to be misleading. Sure, John Carter isn’t one of the greats, but by God was it enjoyable!

Carter himself is played by the ever handsome Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights, X-Men Origins) who is absolutely to die for. The fact that he is the main focal point for the entire 132 minutes is reason alone for any straight female to watch this movie. That he spends most of it topless is another bonus.

The film follows a very basic plot. Carter, a Civil War veteran, accidentally transports himself to Mars when he encounters and kills a strange man holding a strange device. After finding his feet, so to speak, he is captured by tall, eight limbed creatures and brought back to their home in chains. Before long, he encounters a princess in dire need of assistance and, gallant to a fault, he makes his escape to save her city and win her hand.

Based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter is an excellent visual spectacle full of great special effects and many a tense fight scene. It is pure escapist, adventure cinema at its best. Yes it has flaws, no it’s not perfect, but I really don’t think this film is deserving of its flop status. All too often, perfectly passable films are slated by pretentious, douchebag movie critics who elevate themselves above the average cinema-goer.

You probably won’t love this movie, but it definitely won’t bore you. Perfect for anyone looking to immerse themselves in another world and not think too much about it.

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