It’s one of the most emotionally engaging sci-fi films I’ve seen in recent years.
Rian Johnson‘s body of work is the prototypical film student’s wet dream. His first film, Brick, starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt, became a minor critical and commercial success, and emerged fully-formed, just a few years after graduating USC’s undergraduate film production program in 1996. His second film, The Brothers Bloom, starred Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz, and despite middling box-office returns, premiered at TIFF in 2008. Following that, he directed two of the best episodes of one of, if not the best, TV shows ever made–“Fly” and “Fifty-One” of Breaking Bad. All of which contained incredible visuals and allowed him to form a distinct style, taking elements from that which he admired–theatrical realism. And then he got the call from a major studio to write and direct a project he’d been working on for over 10 years–Looper.
Looper is a great sci-fi time travel film, because it isn’t a sci-fi time travel film. It’s a brilliant character-driven drama guised with smart action sequences, gorgeous visuals and the presence of a deliciously ambiguous Bruce Willis. I won’t spoil the major plot twists for you, because the trailer has done such a nice job of avoiding them, but it should be noted that the film isn’t exactly what’s advertised. Suffice it to say that the film’s success hinges on an excellent child actor, playing a child character cut from a familiar mold but very unique to the theme of this film. The film is original and smart, and you should see it–all of those who I saw it with agreed, even if they didn’t love the kid.
The performances are excellent all-around. JoGoLev, Emily Blunt, Willis, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano all bring their a games and elevate a film that could have been much less good in shakier hands. The child actor, Pierce Gagnon, is a neat talent, and should definitely be watched closely.
The cinematography, by longtime Johnson collaborator Steve Yedlin, is inventive and glorious. The music, by Rian’s cousin Nathan Johnson gets the job done. The visual effects are smart and understated–no unnecessary flashes, but definitely eye-catching. The editing is solid, and the script is definitely original. It’s not perfect, but it’s emotionally moving, and poses interesting thematic questions that are answered in an absolutely incredible way in a thrilling climax.
It’s my favorite film of the year so far. Sure, there’re still a few months left, and Oscar season hasn’t even begun. Nevertheless, Looper is worth the price of admission and more.