Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Looper (Updated!)


Maybe I should stop there. For regular readers, that one word communicates all you need to know (indeed, even more than you should know) except for a warning that Looper is a very very violent film. Not that it will be the first time that a violent film makes into my Top Ten (though I don’t always admit it publicly).

If the violence doesn’t scare you off, you might consider reading the rest of this review after watching the film, although, unlike a certain Mr. Ebert, I have no intention of writing any spoilers in my initial review (Ebert goes so far as to say that he isn’t giving too much away, but he gives EVERYTHING away). 

So what we have here is a critically-acclaimed futuristic neo-noir time travel thriller. For some of us, that’s enough to make us run to the theatre, even if the concept of time travel is hopelessly illogical and it is therefore unlikely the film will make sense. And indeed the sci-fi time travel background story in Looper doesn’t really make sense and cannot, in my humble opinion, withstand intellectual scrutiny. Still (and I am reluctant to say this much), time travel is not (IMHO) what Looper is really about.

Looper takes place in Kansas in 2044 and 2074. Time travel is invented in 2074, but immediately outlawed. For the mob bosses in 2074, however, time travel becomes a convenient method of executing and disposing of enemies at a time when it has become otherwise difficult to do so (another largely unexplained logic flaw). So they send their enemies back to 2044 where a looper is waiting to execute them and dispose of their bodies. Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, one of those loopers. He works for Abe (Jeff Daniels), a man from 2074 who has travelled to the past to oversee the looper operation (among other things). Loopers and those they work for are killers, so they should hardly warrant any sympathetic attention from the viewers. And yet … (I am unwilling to finish this sentence at this time – catch my future self in a few weeks).

For now, I will tell you that Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is in many ways a work of genius. The writing is much much better than one usually finds in an action film, ditto the acting (where we have outstanding performances by Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt), there’s a great dystopian-future sci-fi atmosphere, a good score, excellent cinematography and something much more important than all of these (which I will only hint at by saying that Looper’s thought-provoking discussion-worthy appeal lies not in its sci-fi plot but in its philosophical musings).

Part of me thinks I need to make Looper one of the few **** offerings of 2012. But all that needless graphic violence (and the illogical plot) makes me hesitate, so I will give it a very strong ***+. It is almost certainly going to make my Top Ten of the year. My mug is up!

Update: For reasons I won't go into, I just watched Looper for the second time in six days. The result requires a reassessment of the above review. 

First, despite the inherent inconsistencies of time travel, I have to admit that Looper tries much harder than most,so I should not complain about this. Second, regarding the graphic violence which disturbed me so much, well, duh, that may be the point! The Avengers features violence which does not disturb and thus allows viewers to take pleasure in watching it. That is a very bad thing. Looper, on the other hand, does not allow you to enjoy the violence. It hits you like a punch in the guts. Violence should be disturbing. So if you feel you have to make it graphic in order to make it properly disturbing, I suppose that too should be forgiven.

Finally, and this is the most important thing, I actually appreciated Looper more the second time around, even after only six days. That is an awesome achievement. So Looper now gets a solid **** and is assured a place in my top five films of 2012. But keep in mind that I have not yet mentioned exactly why I like this film so much. A lengthy theological reflection is called for and will come in due course (after most potential viewers have had a chance to see Looper at the theatre).

I promised more theological reflection on Looper. This can be found at: http://www.canadianmennonite.org/articles/punch-gut

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