ďI don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.Ē
- Old Joe
Hereís what I wrote about this film in my theatrical review:
ďIím not at all sure where, ultimately, Rian Johnsonís Looper is going to end up ranking inside the pantheon of all-time great time travel science fiction cinematic spectacles. What I do know is that the man behind Brick and The Brothers Bloom has certainly raised his own personal bar, delivered up a labyrinthine story where good and bad donít truly exist while conflicting shades of grey find themselves continually at one anotherís throats. It is, in many ways, an aggressively nasty piece of big budget Hollywood studio popcorn, and Iíll be curious to find just how eager general audiences are going to be to scarf it down once they discover just how distasteful much of this can be.
And thatís all to the good as far as Iím concerned. Johnson has crafted a deliriously dexterous piece of sci-fi noir that doesnít pull its punches and rarely goes for anything less that the jugular. Heroes do some of the most heinous things you could ever possibly imagine. Villains find themselves suddenly capable of monumental sacrifice. Children lose their parents (and vice-versa), deadbeat mothers become paragons of virtue and silver-tongued father figures can supply the golden parachute all the while planning on cutting the strings connecting it to the pack.
The basics revolve around a rundown shell of a downtrodden America circa 2042. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a ĎLooper,í an assassin assigned nameless targets sent to him at a certain time and place from an undisclosed transport point 30 years in the future. Theyíre bound and gagged, bars of silver strapped to their backs as payment for the kill. Itís a good life, as far as murder-for-hire is concerned, the only caveat being at some point youíre going to be required to murder your future self, thus canceling your contract and closing the loop connecting past, present and future.
But when Joeís future self (played by Bruce Willis) appears in front of him, he is not bound, he is not gagged and there is no bag over his head hiding who he is from the assassin. He has a plan, escaping into the wind warning his other self to stay away from his employers and flee. But younger Joe has no intention of letting older Joe run, making the morally ambiguous decision to hunt him down for execution before he can complete whatever mysterious plan has led him to 2042. With his bossí (Jeff Daniels) men breathing down their necks, the two versions of the same killer play a murderous game of cat and mouse, both patiently waiting for their paths to re-cross as the lives of a cagey mother (Emily Blunt) and her troubled child (Pierce Gagnon) mysteriously hang in the balance.
Itís hard not to talk about Looper without giving too much away. The movie holds a humongous debt to Chris Markersí La Jetťe, of course, but subtle homage is also made to time travel hallmarks like Robert Zemeckisí Back to the Future, James Cameronís The Terminator and George Palís The Time Machine as well. There are also elements of Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, John Boormanís Point Blank and John Wooís The Killer, while facets hinting at Terry Gilliamís 12 Monkeys, which probably not-so-coincidentally starred Willis, also abound.
Whatís remarkable is how confidently Johnson weaves this all together. There are very few holes to his thesis, and while typical time travel conundrums do raise their head from time to time they never call attention to themselves in a way that might frustrate or annoy. The story comes together rather eloquently, moving in a satisfactory direction leading to the type of explosively satisfactory conclusion Iím sure fans of the film will be talking about and heatedly debating for quite some time.
It should be noted, though, that the movie is shockingly violent at times, rarely shying away from the more disturbing aspects of the narrative. Think Willis is here in fan-friendly Die Hard mode? Prepare yourself for the truth. Under the impression that Gordon-Levittís Chow Yun-Fat inspired assassin will undergo a change of heart thanks to the love of a good woman? Maybe, but never in the way you might initially assume. There is pain in the film, lots of it, and the way human life is discarded with such blatantly unforgivable cynicism is inherently disturbing. Johnson doesnít want to titillate, doesnít want to provide an adrenalin rush. Heís more interested in diving right into the core of who we are and the inherent narcissism that can oftentimes drive us onward, revealing devilish aspects of the human condition that are as despicable as they riveting.
The acting is universally excellent. Willis hasnít been given a role this interesting and complex in years, and to see him digging so deeply inside of it is a joyful reminder of just how great an actor he can be when given the opportunity. Gordon-Levitt matches him, probably exceeds him if Iím being perfectly honest, only the wrongheaded idea to give him a face full of prosthetics to make him look more like his balding costar keeping him from total greatness. The stuff gives him a glossy doll-like appearance that canít help but call attention to itself, and itís a testament to him as an actor that he not only overcomes this detriment but emotionally excels in the part becoming a spellbindingly complex moral enigma worthy of taking note of.
To say more would ruin the surprises, and there are a number of them, contained within the film. Johnson directs with supreme confidence, handling things with pinpoint precision building events to their unsettling, yet entirely gratifying, conclusion. Looper asks more questions than it can answer, and not every aspect is as perfect or as expertly handled as Iíd have liked it to be, but overall this is Grade A sci-fi entertainment of the first degree. The darn thing works, and like all great time travel epics this is one trip spanning the generations I canít wait to experience again.Ē
Looper holds up terrifically. In my 2012 Recap, the movie came in at essentially the twenty-fourth position for the year, and considering just how many releases there are during each 12-month cycle thatís nothing to scoff at. Johnsonís dramatic time-bending opus is deserving of multiple watches and tons of extra analysis, and as such it ends up being a Blu-ray Iím extremely happy to have as part of my personal collection and one Iíll probably turn to quite a few times throughout the coming years.
Looper is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1/1080p transfer.
This Blu-ray features an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack and features optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Extras here include:
∑ Audio Commentary with writer/director Rian Johnson and actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt Ė A solid track, but not one filled with as many behind-the-scenes insights or what-does-it-all mean meanderings as you might initially think. Still, very interesting, the trio (Blunt comes in at about the eight minute mark or so) in relaxed and engaging form throughout.
∑ Deleted Scenes (36:50) Ė There is a TON of deleted material, and going through it all definitely takes some time. There is optional commentary from Johnson as well as actor Noah Segan (who definitely got the short straw when it came to finding many of his more interesting scenes left on the cutting room floor).
∑ The Future from the Beginning (7:52) Ė Nice, if not exactly as wonderful as it could be, making-of featurette filled with the expected interviews with many members of the cast and crew.
∑ The Science of Time Travel (8:29) Ė Fun featurette with How to Build a Time Machine author Brian Clegg talking about the Ďrulesí of the science fiction staple as well as focusing on the actual science behind it and its literary history.
∑ Scoring Looper (16:18) Ė Engaging three-part mini-documentary on composer Nathan Johnson and the likes he was forced to go to give Looper its signature soundtrack.
i. Field Recordings
iii. Melodic Instruments
∑ Looper Animated Trailer (1:34)
Theatrical Trailers for Parker, Premium Rush, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, Company of Heroes, Seven Psychopaths and Lockout are also included with this release.
Looper was one of the better films of 2012 and has a chance to only grow in esteem and favor over the next few years. Sonyís Blu-ray release is top of the line all across the board and as such it receives my highest recommendation.