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Looper
Genre Sci-Fi
 
Review:

Where will you be in 30 years? More importantly, who will you be and would you really like the you you've become? Before we get too ahead of ourselves, that is essentially what's at play in Looper, a new sci-fi actioner starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, from the mind of writer-director, Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom).

Time travel has become a reality in 2074 - something that has been outlawed by government, to prevent a complete meltdown in society. What happens when something becomes prohibited? The mafia turn it into a "business opportunity, sending their targets back in time to a hit man (or looper) in an age when it's still possible to dispose of bodies and evidence without detection.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt), a young looper in 2044, comes face-to-face with himself when an older Joe (Willis) is sent back to be terminated. With a little luck, old Joe manages to evade his younger self and sets in motion a series of events and objectives that need to be achieved to rescue his future from himself.

It's a fascinating premise, one that Rian Johnson refined over 10 years after reading works by Philip K. Dick. He wrote the part for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a friend who he wanted to collaborate with again, after they teamed up for the critically acclaimed high school film-noir, Brick. While in his mind for the role, Gordon-Levitt was primed to play Bruce Willis, after watching his films and studying his mannerisms with help from make-up and prosthetics.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a rising star, one who has recently been linked to the Justice League adaptation in the part of Batman. A quiet, diligent, humble and instantly likable young man, the actor has been quite discerning when it comes to parts ever since he replaced James Franco in Inception, landing starring roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Lincoln, 50/50, Premium Rush and now Looper.

He's allied by an in-form Willis as his future self, who does what Bruce Willis does best, committing to the part of old Joe with a sense of passion, intensity and unflinching urgency. The actors don't look alike off screen, but share an awkward father-son on-screen chemistry, that is bolstered by excellent make-up artistry and a full performance from Gordon-Levitt, playing a younger Willis.

Emily Blunt delivers yet another plucky and sassy girl-next-door performance as a tough farm girl after signing on, after only reading half the script. Just like Gordon-Levitt and Willis, Blunt has an unassuming presence that gradually builds with her character. Jeff Daniels rounds the cast off with another solid turn, but it's young Pierce Gagnon who steals the show with a tensile performance that escalates Looper to another level.

The performances are sharp and so is Johnson's script, which moves the story forward, alternating between casual musings to thought-provoking dialogue. The story comes first, quickly setting up the scenario without getting too trapped in the rules of time travel and then stepping back to allow the characters and story unfold like a sci-fi blend of Twelve Monkeys, The Terminator, Frequency and Signs.

The cinematography is beautiful and Johnson has ensured that almost every shot has an identity of its own, delivering futuristic cities with real world problems. The production design is solid, conjuring up an unflattering vision of the world after energy-conserving modifications, where a reworking of everything from motorbikes to blunderbusses ties in with the nostalgia of yesterday's trends, giving a retro Tarantino feel to the leather jackets and old school diners.

The editing takes a little getting used to, driving the story forward with purpose to the point that you feel that scenes are ending prematurely. There's no spoon-feeding in Looper, which forces you to engage, but makes it feel a little rushed when the story hits the brakes for some slower, meaningful character development and dialogue between the main players.

This hit-and-run style editing and the cold-blooded nature of the characters does keep you at arm's length, marveling at the originality, beauty and quality of Looper only to realise that you don't really care enough for the characters. This lessens the impact of the emotional scenes and keeps you from fully immersing yourself in the story - simply making it a first-class spectacle.

Looper has plenty of great movie moments and checks the box in almost every department, making it a must-see and excellent sci-fi action entertainment. This is only slightly undone by a lack of identification with the impenetrable main characters and some jolted editing, which loosens the grip on the audience, dampening the intended emotional punch of the third act.

The bottom line: Dazzling

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