Let me just start this review off by refuting a certain assumption made by some amateur critics: No, this is not a Neo-noir film. I don’t know who got it in their heads that this movie somehow qualifies as anything even remotely close to noir, but suffice it to say that this movie has few, if any elements at all of the typical film in said movement. Yes, Rian Johnson has become well known amongst film aficionados for his work on Brick, considered by many to be one of the best examples of Neo-noir in the past decade. However, that doesn’t automatically mean that everything he does is going to be in that exact same style. Looper is a postmodern science fiction film before it is anything else. Perhaps I would take the Neo-noir definition seriously if the main character were a detective, or if the language used was similar to a hard-boiled detective novel, or even if any of the characters in the film resembled any character type that is typical of noir; but unfortunately, this is not the case. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be the case, because this is still an amazing film all on its own.
The past few years has seen a nice selection of pretty damn good science fiction in the theaters. Whether you’re talking about something like Moon, Dictrict 9, Inception or Prometheus, you’re talking about a bunch of top tier titles with a lot of love put into them. Looper follows more in the vein of Inception than any of the others, working again with the concept of multiple different dimensions. Of course, in this case the different dimensions are different periods in time. This film takes place in a distant but not far off future in which time travel has been invented. Once invented, it was almost immediately outlawed due to the possibility for misuse. Another interesting aspect of this future is the idea that apparently somewhere around 10% of the people in the world now have telekinetic abilities. Most of them use it to perform simple tricks, as the ability isn’t quite strong enough to produce any other results.
Needless to say, there is a pretty interesting, if not dystopian view of the future at play in this film. Being that it is central to the plot, there’s not much more I can tell you about it. The fact that I can explain most of it in a few sentences should tell you that these concepts aren’t exactly the deepest and most thought provoking out there, but here we find a filmmaker who knows what he’s doing with the material he has. You see, there’s a difference between keeping it simple and making something simple more complex; Rian has chosen to travel down the latter of these two roads, crafting a film that assumes its audience knows how to pay attention and is used to questioning everything. Much like Inception, Looper will leave you questioning whether the things you’ve seen really mean what you think they mean. In fact, there are plenty of audiences out there who have already left the ambiguous ending of this film feeling that they have the answer, only to remember several plot points in the film that discredit their theories.
Suffice it to say that this is more than just your average sci-fi flick. Yes, you’ve got Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this movie is all action and no brains. There’s a place and a time for that kind of schlock, which is why you won’t find much of it here. Everything happens the way it does for a reason, but it’s up to you to discern what that meaning really is. With an excellent performance form JGL (who doesn’t even look or sound like himself in this movie) and Bruce Willis being as naturally intimidating as he is, there’s a whole lot to love about this movie. Add in some creepy Jeff Daniels and a few other pretty good performances from Emily Blunt and Paul Dano, and you’ve got yourself a film that is sure to impress for years to come. It may not be the best sci-fi film you’ll ever see, but Looper has got it where it counts.