Johnson’s latest cinematic endeavour is Looper, a futuristic action thriller, which reunites Johnson with Gordon-Levitt. Looper also stars Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels. This is a film brimming with ambitious ideas, and though many of them are familiar to the genre, they have been cleverly arranged and given an intelligent subversion to ensure this experience is for the most part an original, enthralling and thought-provoking one.
This is introduced through one of Joe’s colleagues (Paul Dano), whose loop turns up and he commits the job’s mortal sin, lets his older self get away. After graciously trying to assist his friend, and having to face up to his boss (Jeff Daniels), Joe comes face-to-face with his own (Bruce Willis). Before he has time to eliminate him, Joe is knocked unconscious and his target escapes. Joe's older self is beset on changing something in the past, while Joe wants to close his loop and get on with his present life. Along the way he crosses paths with Sara (Emily Blunt) and seeks refuge on her farm.
The first hour of Looper is brilliant. There's some fascinating and atmospheric world building - time travel, telekinesis, pharmaceutical drugs, seedy nightclubs, hover cars, silver tablets that exist as Joe's monetary income, and groovy weaponry - and more than a nod to classic film noir again. Johnson situates his brooding protagonist within a scummy, corrupt and palpable dystopia within his elaborate future metropolis. There are chase sequences, a tense and well dialogued one-on-one between Willis and Gordon-Levitt in a diner and watching a character's older self track his younger one is entertaining filmmaking. But once the film relocates in the latter half these exciting and unpredictable features are replaced with an unfocused blend of big ideas and character arcs that aren't of the same vivacious inventiveness. The parallel agenas of both the young and older Joe unexpectedly converge toward another individual, and though the film is resolved in a satisfying way, I think the film was much stronger when it was a cat-and-mouse game between Willis and Gordon-Levitt.
The performances are strong with Joseph Gordon-Levitt continuing to impress. While I enjoyed spending time with Joe - his methodical dispositions are separated by a care-free life of drugs and parties and self-taught French lessons - I didn't particularly like the guy. Still, while those in his profession weren't known for their 'forward thinking' Joe is learning French as part of his plan for the future. A future self he would inevitably meet. It was great to see Willis resurrect his action-hero role, and it is incredible how he continues to be convincing in the physical extremities of his roles.
Issues aside, it is evident that Johnson has tremendous talent as a writer and a director, an eye for mood and the visual (Looper is laced with technical feats, sleek photography from Steve Yedlin and an outstanding score from Nathan Johnson) and the rare ambition to offer up an intelligent high-energy film. Conceptually, Looper is highly commendable, and there are a number of tremendous sequences that will bring shock and awe, but I couldn't help but feel frustrated with some of the developments and that unfortunately resulted in my experience being slightly underwhelming. Explaining why flirts very closely with revealing spoilers, which is why I have been vague. While certainly one of the year's most exciting science-fiction films, it is also a mentally stimulating experience. It is a credit to Johnson for infusing generic elements with his own unique vision, resulting in an atmospheric science fiction thriller that will have viewers craving another look.
My Rating: ★★★1/2 (B)