Rian Johnson is a writer/director who has slowly been making a name for himself. In 2005, he brought us the bizarre mystery film Brick, a film that I didn’t care much for, but which earned him a reputation. His follow-up film, The Brothers Bloom, was an excellent example of a con film that plays with the audience as much as it does with its characters. Now Johnson brings us his latest project, Looper, a fascinating science-fiction film that asks you to wrap your head around the age-old concept of time travel.
Set about 30 years into the future, we are informed that time travel has not been invented yet, but it will be in 30 years. At that time, since it’s nearly impossible to get rid of a body, a crime organization simply sends them back in time where they are killed and incinerated by hired guns known as “loopers.” The loopers are paid in bars of silver that are strapped to the victims back. However, they are paid in gold when they accomplish what is called “closing the loop,” i.e. killing their future self.
This is exactly the problem Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is faced with when his future self arrives. Old Joe (Bruce Willis) manages to escape from his younger self and sets out on a mission to recover his wife who was killed when he was captured. The mission involves hunting down the younger self of a powerful man (“The Rainmaker”) who has taken over the city in the future and is responsible for ordering Joe’s loop to be closed. Meanwhile, Young Joe must do everything he can to fix his mistake before the organization he works for hunts him down.
Looper is one of the more original science-fiction films to come around in the last few years. Sure, time travel has been used several times before, but as to it being used in this manner, I can’t say that I’ve seen it before. Johnson actually appears to have a good grasp of temporal mechanics, at least, for the most part. I say “for the most part” because there was one spot at the very end that had a bit of a problem, but it doesn’t really affect the film in any major way.
For the rest of the film, he uses it in a fascinating manner such as when a friend of young Joe’s, Seth (Paul Dano), faces the same crisis of having let his future self get away. Young Seth is captured and tortured, the effects of which we immediately see on Old Seth. It even deals with the change in the timeline as Old Joe and Young Joe experience new events as a result of Old Joe going back in time.
As Old Joe tells us at one point, memories get clearer or cloudier as they become more or less likely. For instance, as things begin to change, he starts to forget about the first time he saw his wife’s face, and instead has it replaced with the image of Sara (Emily Blunt), the parent of a kid who could possibly be “The Rainmaker,” whom Young Joe meets later on in the film. It’s great uses of an interesting concept like this that make Looper stand out from more traditional science-fiction films.
The first half of the film is filled with a good deal of energy that doesn’t stop for too long before continuing the excitement. However, the second half is where things began to slow down a bit, and by a bit, I mean a lot. This isn’t to say that slowing down is a bad thing, but it becomes apparent that Johnson couldn’t keep up the level of excitement that he had established at the start.
This leads to this half of the film feeling rather stretched out, as though he was wasting a lot of time before getting to the ending. He fills this time with a relationship between Young Joe and Sara that doesn’t really end up going anywhere, nor serving much of a purpose. That being said, the main story does eventually continue, and Johnson does a good job at building tension for the last ten minutes, making the audience question how it’s all going to play out.
Johnson may not be a household name as of yet, but if he keeps up his string of interesting films, it probably won’t be too long before it happens. Looper shows a good deal of evidence of his ability to deal with complex issues in an engaging manner, but it also shows that he knows how to put together an intriguing story with the material. If only more science-fiction films could be this thought-provoking, then there would be more of them worth seeing
Looking at the technical aspects of the Blu-Ray, the film is presented in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer that is sharp for the most part. There were a few times throughout the film when the picture was a bit blurry around the edges of characters and objects, but luckily this was infrequent. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is top notch with all elements mixed perfectly.
Looper comes with the following special features:
- Feature commentary with Director Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt
- Looper: From the Beginning – Making-Of Featurette
- 22 Deleted Scenes with Commentary
- Scoring Looper
- The Science of Time Travel Featurette
- Looper Animated Trailer
The film comes to Blu-Ray with a decent selection of special features. The feature commentary is worth listening to for Johnson’s interesting insights into the production. There are 22 deleted scenes included that total about 37 minutes. However, that’s a bit deceiving as the deleted parts are mainly extended from pre-existing scenes, with much of the 37 minutes being parts that are in the final cut.
Most of the deleted material is just small bits and pieces that were cut out, but we do get treated to a neat extension of the diner conversation between Young Joe and Old Joe. For those interested in the main concept of the film, there’s a featurette discussing time travel that’s worth a watch. The last extra that’s worth checking out is a featurette exploring how the score was put together from various sounds that the composer recorded from a variety of different objects.
All things considered, this is an excellent Blu-Ray release. The film is presented in outstanding video and audio quality, while the special features have a fair amount about how this unique film was put together. Whether you’ve already seen the film or not, this is one that is definitely worth picking up.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.