Monday, October 1, 2012
Looper, A Smart and Skilled Sci-Fi Saga
The year is 2044. The United States is recognizable but is in a realistic state of danger and dilapidation after an economic collapse. 10% of the population has a genetic mutation causing minor telekinesis (essentially boys floating small objects in their hands in order to impress pretty girls). Flash forward 30 years to 2074: time travel has been discovered, but the powers that be deemed it far too dangerous to be legal--imagine the repercussions of citizens travelling back in time, causing a butterfly effect across decades. However, the mob--led by a new, brutal head boss with no remorse referred to as "The Rainmaker"--has decided that time travel is great way to dispose of bodies (The Mob loves capitalizing on illegal activity). In the year 2074, tracking devices make it far too hard to discreetly "off" the competition. So this major criminal enterprise, taking control of the time travel machine, send people back in time 30 years to 2044, where gunmen called "loopers" are waiting, blunderbuss in hand, ready to blow brain matter and chunks of flesh onto plastic sheets (easier for cleanup).
Are you following? Picture this: a man (a looper) stands in the middle of a cornfield in 2044. He has his powerful gun in hand. Five feet away sits an empty plastic sheet, lightly blowing in the wind. He compulsively checks his ticking watch. Poof, a different man appears on the plastic (from 2074), tied up with a hood covering his head. Boom, the man dies and blood squirts. Let's make things more complicated: when the crime boss (from 2074) wants to end a looper's contract, they send the looper's 30-year future self back in time to 2044, where his 30-year younger self is waiting, yet again, with a gun in his hand, ready to kill. This is called "closing the loop", and when this happens, the looper from 2044 collects a giant payday and is free to live out the next 30 years in whatever way he wants to. In this future world, many loopers end up addicted to an epensive psychedelic drug in the form of eye drops, living in addiction and squalor.
The looper that Looper focuses on is named Joe. He's played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (popping up in many new releases nowadays), as a cocky, drug-addicted gunman who lives for the silver he gets in order to get his next fix, to get to the next party, to hook up with the next beautiful woman. But he doesn't quite look like himself. In preparation of filming Looper every day, Levitt had to sit in the make-up chair, donning realistic prosthetics and accentuating make-up to look a little more like...Bruce Willis. He even has mannerisms like Willis and sounds like Willis. You half expect him to utter, "Yippee Ki Yay, Motherfucker!", whenever he pulls the trigger.
Phew, this time travel stuff is complicated. Luckily, Looper doesn't dwell too long on the technical aspects of the space/time continuum and doesn't bother with the question of whether effecting a butterfly's flight trajectory will cause a future nuclear explosion. Other good actors appear in important roles, namely Jeff Daniel's as Joe's sometimes-forgiving-sometimes-malicious boss and Emily Blunt as a secluded farm owner with pertinent secrets of her own. But the real star of this show is Rian Johnson, whose script is just smart enough and just fast-paced enough to not question the validity of the time travel scenario and whose direction is fervent and beautiful. Looper makes plenty of sense if you go by the guidelines of the rules in which it creates. It's easiest to sit back and take Old Joe's advice when talking to Young Joe at a diner (I'm paraphrasing): "We're not gonna sit here all day and talk about time travel, we'd be here all day making diagrams with straws." Taking that sound advice, Looper--like shooting a blast from a blunderbuss barrel--is loud, violent, and incredibly exciting. (A)