Previous Joints

Thursday, 7 February 2013

All Hail The King: Looper

This is the film that inspired this blog.

It seems like the older I get, the more I love sci-fi movies. The only explanation I can find for this is that I find it easier to get lost in these films. Also, the quality of recent sci-fi movies has been extraordinary. For example: Duncan Jones’ Moon blew me away and he had the nerve to follow it up with Source Code; the much lauded Chronicles was still underrated; Attack The Block (yes, I’m going there) showed that British cinema had a dog in the sci-fi fight; District 9 is just one of the best films I have ever seen – period.

But no sci-fi film has made as much impact on me as Looper.

Rian Johnson’s Looper is a simple yet complicated film. My one advice for anyone thinking about watching this film is to ignore the flawed science logic. Follow old Joe’s (Bruce Willis) advice:

“I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”

Or Abe’s advice (Jeff Daniels):

“This time travel crap, just fries your brain like an egg.”

Basically, to pay attention to the time travelling logic in this time travel film is pointless.

Looper is essentially a gangster film set in 2044 about hired guns (Loopers) who kill and dispose of bodies sent back from 2074 which have a silver payday strapped to their back. Before signing up, every Looper is told that one day a body will appear with a gold payday – this body will be their own future self. This is called “closing the loop”. Failing to kill your future self is called “letting your loop run”.

This film is all about Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) letting his loop (Bruce Willis) run.

The first thing that struck me about this film is the world. Set in Kansas, USA, it is immediately recognisable with pinches of fantastical elements spread throughout – rusting hoverbikes, clunky Blunderbuss (a cross between a laser-gun and a shotgun) and people with mild telekinesis (known as TK in the film).

This is clearly a post-2008 financial meltdown movie. Children are running around malnourished, people are stealing from one another and getting shot for their troubles, and to top it off, China is the new superpower. This is a grungy, dirty and depressing vision of the not too distant future. It doesn’t take much to figure out how this world could inspire young people to sign up to a deal of short term reward – life as a Looper is an escape.

With that said, Loopers are idiots. They are self obsessed, only caring about the next high, their clothes, gadgets, cars etc. Joe and co are the YOLO (google it and cringe) generation on film.

In fact, everyone in this film is horrible. Sid (the excellent Pierce Gagnon) is a psychopath of Damien proportions; Sid’s mother, Sara (Emily Blunt), left him to live it up in the city; GL’s Joe is literally hunting down himself to preserve his self obsessed drug filled life; Willis’ Joe is... well, we’ll get to him later.

If you’re cheering for anyone in this film then know that you’re cheering for a vile character.

Bruce Willis’ character is the reason why I love this film. Firstly, can I just say that this guy's CV in sci-fi is extraordinarily legendary: 12 Monkeys, Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, The Fifth Element and (the underrated) Surrogate. All Hail the King of Sci-Fi.

It’s the questions his character asks of the audience (well, me anyway) that makes this film special: What would you do?

What would you do if you saw a loved one shot and killed? How far would you go to ensure that no harm comes to the people you love?

Bruce Willis’ character transforms into a mad man, terminator-lite, stopping at nothing to change the future. I mean, the bloke kills an innocent kid to save his future wife and unborn baby - a woman that he (young Joe) hasn't met, or fallen in love with yet. He (young Joe) doesn't care that he himself (old Joe) is suffering. He (young Joe) is so self obsessed that he sees himself (old Joe) as a totally different person.

Simply put, I think old Joe is one of the most terrifying characters of recent cinema, simply because he is so relatable. Yes, he is a horrible person, he does unspeakable things, but damn it (cliché alert), he does it for love.

Mrs Teddybear says that the older I get, the more depressing the films I like. I can see her point, but I truly believe that best films reflect the times in which they are made - and times are not sunshine and unicorns.

The characters in this film and recent sci-fi films are not black and white, they are grey, and some times the shades of grey are indistinguishable. They ask audiences tough questions and they don’t end with the hero walking toward the sunset. More and more of these films have no heroes and offer dim hope.

The most Looper and modern day sci-fi offers are flawed characters looking for redemption: The party girl finally accepts her responsibility as a mother, the killer finds love and the killer finds love (no typo).

A chance at redemption. That is all the hope I need.