I said in my review for Argo that any REALLY good film has one (or two) aspects that seem to stand out as its strongest suit. Looper IS such a film, and its strongest suit is definitely the script. After I had seen the trailers, I felt like they had given all the twists away ahead of time. Not even half. Looper is the most surprising thriller that I have seen in a long time. Every time I thought that I had it all figured out, it slapped me in the face and told me that thought is WRONG! Although your perceptions became unexpectedly skewed at every turn it always made the pieces fit together more sensibly. Of course, some pretty wild coincidences are thrown in for good measure, but it IS a movie about time travel and the inherent paradoxes it can bring, so some leeway must be given in this area.
Writer/director Rian Johnson has been sitting out of the directing game since 2008, when his second feature, "The Brothers Bloom", failed to achieve the same sort of critical reception that his debut feature "Brick" had met with, despite his access to a much higher profile cast. In Looper, he has reteamed with Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt to phenomenal effect for both men. Johnson comes back strong, pulling the very best out of both his story and his actors.
Speaking of the actors, this is the best dramatic turn that we've seen from Bruce Willis in over a decade. All of his trademark swagger from his younger days fits the older version of Joe well (I'm going to avoid giving away any of the plot as much as possible, but Willis plays the older version of the character played by Gordon-Levitt.) Yet, the more grizzled demeanor that age has given him also fits the character perfectly making a well rounded yet believable combination.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt will probably not even make most of the conversations about the Best Actor race this year for his work in Looper (supporting nods for sci-fi, maybe, but leads?, forget it), but he undoubtedly should be. The production used some fantastic, subtle, prosthetic make-up tricks to make JGL look a little more like a young version of Willis (major kudos to artists Jamie Kelman and Kazuhiro Tsuji), but Gordon-Levitt REALLY makes you believe it is true. He gets Willis's posture, speech patterns, facial expressions, hand gestures, and just about every mannerism down perfectly. It's a little creepy, but absolutely amazing to watch.
Emily Blunt is getting Best Supporting Actress buzz for this film as well, and while it still seems like a bit of a long shot, she is very deserving. I would also like to commend Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, and child actor Pierce Gagnon who all impressed in smaller roles.
Looper is a film with much greater thematic depth than you really expect a film of its type to possess. Early on Joe (JGL) faces quandries that force him to choose between selfishness and charity. In coming face to face with his older self, he becomes consumed by matters of fate versus free will as well as the meaning and nature of identity. Emily Blunt's side of the tale calls to mind serious thought on the old nature versus nurture debate, as well as expanding upon themes of love and sacrifice. By the film's end, Joe is faced with pretty much the same question that he faces in the beginning, but with higher odds and a better view of the big picture.
Yes, Looper is a shoot-em up, sci-fi, action thriller, but it is the best, most profound one that I've seen made by someone other than Christopher Nolan in a long time. If it were up to me, the film would be in serious consideration for at least seven Academy Award nominations including Best Picture. Owing to its genre, it might get one to three, with Original Screenplay and Make-Up seeming the most likely as of this writing. Still..Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Twelve Monkeys, Inception, and...Looper, seriously. 5 of 5 stars.
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