Looper is … Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh


Joseph Gordon Levitt as Young Joe in Looper1

Supposedly, Rian Johnson’s Looper has a lot of plotholes related to time travel that caused a lot of people to not like the movie. I don’t really care about that crap. Complaining about the implausibility of something that’s impossible seems a little goofy to me. It’s like complaining about the magic rules in Harry Potter or nitpicking about whatever the hell it is that Hobbits do. Looper is flawed, but its refusal to play by “proper time travel rules” is the flaw that interests me the least. No, the biggest flaw in Looper is a second act that’s deadly.

Looper is about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe, who’s a hitman in the future that kills people with a blunderbuss. He’s also apparently a drug addict, I’m presuming because of the horrible plastic surgery that was done on his nose. (More on that later.) Jeff Daniels also plays a crime overlord from the future who blahblahblah, and also telekinesis is involved for plot-motivated reasons. Anyway, the narration in the film will get you up to speed on the ins and outs, but this is all building to a showdown between JGL and Bruce Willis. At least, it seems that way, and that’s kind of what happens, but…hm.

Which brings us to the back half of the film, which is primarily set on Emily Blunt’s farm. There are several shots of Blunt chopping on the same tree stump with an ax that made me laugh for some reason. (Does the entire farm run on tiny splinters?) Emily Blunt’s kid has telekinesis, and is going to be Jeff Daniels in the future (I think?), so Bruce Willis goes back in time to try and find the kid and kill the kid before he grows up to be eeeeeeeevil and so Bruce Willis can preserve his fond memories of the pretty Chinese lady he was married to after he “closed his loop” back in the day. (Just see the movie for further explanation on all this stuff.) Is Emily Blunt’s kid the one that Bruce is looking for? I don’t want to give anything away but of course he is.

This all leads to a surprising, clever ending that maybe doesn’t have the emotional resonance it’s meant to. I think that’s my issue with the work of Rian Johnson. I love all of his films as ideas, but I run hot and cold on their quality as movies. I’m reminded of Johnson’s second film, The Brothers Bloom, another intriguing, well-made film that seems to wander for a bit before it closes. Johnson uses these moments to try and add an emotional layer, but in both these films, the wonky structure stops the movie in its tracks. On a scene-by-scene basis, Johnson’s work is outstanding, but I’m not sure he’s made a film yet where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

There’s some interesting world building going on here. This is one of those movies set in the future where things aren’t TOO futuristic save for  the occasional flying motorcycle. I liked all of that very much. However, I was somewhat distracted by Levitt’s makeup. I get that they wanted him to resemble Willis, but that’s what the acting is for. Putting Levitt in a crude version of WillisFace was an odd decision that didn’t quite work for me.  When watching actors play older/younger versions of each other, I’ve managed to suspend my disbelief for decades now. Why bother?

There’s much to like in Looper, and it’s impossible to deny Rian Johnson’s ambition and ability. His films are easy to like, but difficult to love, and pacing seems to be his constant downfall. I flat-out blanked for 10 minutes during the second act. For me, his best work has still been the two episodes of Breaking Bad that he’s directed.

UPDATE: Jeff Daniels was playing a different character, not the evil Rainmaker guy. I think.

SHILL: Looper (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy)


3 thoughts on “Looper is … Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  1. Looper was the first movie I watched this year as well Mr. Perry. you are correct, Jeff Daniels isn’t the Rainmaker guy.

    I didn’t have a problem with the time travel stuff until I woke up at 5:00am this morning and thought about it for a minute. In the movie when you killed the older version of yourself you are closing a loop but when you kill your future self you actually open the loop. (the pattern of aging 30 years and being sent back should technically never end as long as your younger self never dies)

    To close a loop the Jeff Daniels guy should just kill the young killer and you can delete the whole sending someone back in the future from your outlook calendar.

    The second movie I watched this year was “Another Thin Man” not as good as “The Thin Man” but William Powell is still one of the coolest on screen guys ever.

    many blessings

  2. Jesse

    Interesting points, sir! I have no ability to keep track of time travel logic, so that stuff went right over my head. I responded well to the movie’s first half, but I’m still not sure how successful that second half is.

    The second movie I watched last night was “Sideways.” Love that movie. Giamatti wuz robbed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s