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Philip Morton

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Looper

Posted: 01/27/2013 3:27 pm

One of the hardest things to do in life is face up to your own self-hatred. We all have it to some degree. But not as bad as Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays Joe the hero of Looper, who spends the entire movie hunting himself down trying to kill himself. If he succeeds, he keeps his assassin job in the present. If he fails, he will be killed by his own firm and his future self-will kill someone he cares about. Clearly he and himself should go to couple counseling. But that's really not in the cards as both of him like neither of them at all. Which makes for some very fun dialogue when they team up.

It's two parts post urban shoot 'em up, one part Kafkaesque time travel story in a future crime syndicate. Try thinking two parts John Woo, one part Rod Serling.

Gordon-Levitt is winning as the slick kid trying to hold it together, yet is broken inside while trying to find his way. Bruce Willis brings his familiar brand of sensitive and realistic brutality that he makes so believable as his older self.

One of the hardest things to do in the world of sci fi, and I say this having written on several studio sci fi pictures including Fantastic Four, is create something truly new. It's what we all want to do and fear terribly we may fail. But here Rian Johnson does just that. He creates something new. He writes and directs a future-present that feels true and disturbingly unreal.

The ride is unexpectedly thrilling because of a sweet new take on time travel that embraces a less trusted pillar of sci fi lore. The most common time travel theory states that time is fixed and we move around these fixed events unable to escape them. Whether or not we truly know how these events transpired, they inevitably must happen. The Terminator franchise lives there. But this film embraces the less familiar time ethos that time flows like water, and if diverted will create a new path abandoning the first. Past, present and future all change accordingly as history is malleable and instantly changeable anywhere along the time line. This makes time travel all the more dangerous.

Looper embraces malleable time flow so perfectly one marvels that this hasn't been done with greater gusto before. Here if you change a character's experience in the past his future self instantly forms a new set of memories and physical characteristics from it.

The film includes a horrific new angle on non-time dependent torture that affects a future character immediately as it happens to his past self, which I found absolutely chilling.

It also raises philosophical questions of identity. What are we if not a collection of our experiences and memories? And what happens if your past changes so that these memories never happened? Yes you're still alive, but who are you? Old Joe is ready to die to protect his memories, while Young Joe is ready to die to prevent his memories from ever happening. Given that they're the same guy, played by the two leads, makes it fun stuff.

There's a clever entanglement with Emily Blunt, a beautiful single mother and her young boy that bring unexpected turns. As the boy adopts the young assassin, Joe finds his heart open to them both, becoming their protector and here the movie emotionally come alive.

You find you're rooting for hero A to actually kill hero A Prime who becomes the enemy, even though he's the same guy and you like Hero A and you like Hero A prime as well, but if A Prime doesn't die soon A will be killed which means A Prime will never have existed. Follow that? Then this movie is for you.

Bringing style to spare the end is an emotional one, surprising and kicks you in the gut all at the same time. I found Looper a great ride that delivers on its promise of being something new.

 

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