2012-09-28

Looper – Dark, Gritty And Thought-Provoking

by Yo Snyder

Looper is the type of movie that some might find boring. It
looks like another whiz-bang, sci-fi action romp in the trailers, and
with Bruce Willis in it, why would we expect anything less? But this
movie isn’t about the action. We’re also told in the trailers that Looper has time travel in it, but again, the movie isn’t really (at least not entirely) about that. Looper is a sci-fi film very much in the vein of Bladerunner, Gattaca, 12 Monkeys
and the like where sci-fi serves more as a backdrop, the time travel
serves mostly as a plot device, and action is there to punctuate the
story in often violent, brutal and messy ways. However, what this movie
is about is some bigger, philosophical and existential questions. This
is the type of sci-fi movie that causes one to think and ponder, and as I
said, some may find that boring. I’m not one of those, I found Looper to be engaging if at times a bit tough and bleak.

Before
we get to the “big” issues, first let’s talk about Willis and
Gordon-Levitt. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the younger version of Bruce
Willis. He went through an extensive make-up session each day to help
mold his face to resemble Willis a bit more, and it’s generally
effective, though at times it looks a bit…off. However, what sells you
on Gordon-Levitt being the younger version of Bruce Willis is how well
he emulates every little nuance, expression, mannerism and even speech.
I’ve big a big fan of Bruce Willis for many years, so to see
Gordon-Levitt at times perfectly catch one little look or one little
mannerism is really impressive. He completely sells you on him being the
younger Bruce Willis with all of the subtle, non-verbal things he does
that I’ve seen Bruce Willis do in all of his movies throughout the
years. Willis is fine in this film, and in fact it’s probably one of his
better ones in recent years, but ultimately he’s out-shined by
Gordon-Levitt, who’s just a better actor. Sorry Bruce.  Jeff Daniels
also puts in a great performance as Abe, a guy from the future sent to
help run the Loopers. Finally, one of the more impressive roles however,
is Pierce Gangon who plays young Cid, a central figure in the movie (I
won’t spoil why), and he’s just flat-out amazing in the role.

Getting back to what Looper
is about, like much of the best sci-fi, there’s actually quite a bit
one could unpack and discuss from this movie. There are several
interesting themes one could easily begin to dissect and debate and
discuss in great detail, but ultimately, this is a movie about fate. Or
perhaps more accurately, about what can change our fate. Or perhaps
still more accurately, are bad people destined to do truly evil things,
or can that somehow be changed? On a grander scale, this movie ponders
whether or not we’re all caught in a loop and if there’s any way to
break that cycle. Surprisingly enough, the answer to these questions is
yes; fate can be changed, evil can be avoided, and a loop can be broken
all because of a mother’s love. Love is what makes the difference.

It’s
an interesting conclusion because the Bible says exactly the same
thing. What can prevent a bad person from truly becoming evil? What can
break the loop of our own self-destruction? What can make the difference
in world full of hurt and hopelessness? Love. The love of a Heavenly
Father. Love that was put on display when Jesus Christ was beaten,
mocked and crucified. Love that showed it’s power when death could not
keep Jesus in the grave when he arose in victory over death, sin and
evil. It’s a love that changed the world and it’s a love that is
changing lives, breaking loops, providing comfort and hope all around us
on a daily basis. Looper is a dark, bleak movie without much
hope, but it ends with this one dangling possibility that perhaps love
is a enough to make the difference. Well, it’s not just a possibility,
it’s a reality. Love has already made the difference, and eternal
difference, and it’s up to us to either embrace that or, if we choose,
we can ignore it and try to get by on our own.

Now, as I’ve said,
some might find that a movie that ponders those sort of heady questions
as rather boring. Yes there’s action in this movie, but those moments
are generally short. However, they’re severe, brutal and often bloody
and shocking. Because they come so quickly and so viciously, it’s like
getting hit with a quick punch. And those aren’t the only elements that
punch you in the gut. So are the ones where the movie struggles with
things like whether or not killing one person in the present to save
hundreds of thousands from being killed in the future makes taking that
life any easier; especially if it’s the life of a child. None of these
characters are particularly likable, the world they live in is bleak,
dark and hopeless, and the violence while pragmatic is no less gritty
because of that. This is not a feel good movie in any sense of the word,
and at times is pretty tough to watch. Still, it will leave an
impression and keep you thinking long after it fades to black. All of
that to say, this movie really isn’t boring, it’ll grip you. It has
action, and that action is intense, but it’s not Die Hard with time travel.

Hard-core sci-fi has had a pretty good year this year. We had Prometheus
earlier this summer, another movie full of big questions and ambiguous
endings. But unlike that film’s penchant for asking questions mostly
just because they sound big and important without much interesting in
actually delving into them for answers, Looper takes the time to
actually consider some answers to its questions, even if it isn’t quite
sure if an answer can be found. It doesn’t waste time with
pseudo-scientific garble about how time travel is possible and all of
its paradoxes, and instead concerns itself with the lives of its
characters and the tough choices and questions they must face. Dark,
gritty, and bleak are words that best describe this film, but so do
thoughtful and thought-provoking. Because it is such a tough movie to
watch at times and because it is so dark, it’s not exactly a film I’d go
around recommending; it’s just not the type of movie that’s everyone’s
cup o’ tea. However, if you do see it, just know it will leave you with
plenty to ponder, plenty to discuss, and plenty to think about beyond
its own bleak worldview.

Score: 6 of 7 (4 of 7 if you’re concerned about content)