Review: LOOPER (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Review: LOOPER (2012)

RATING: 2.5/5

Prior to the theatrical release of LOOPER, the movie has already gained favorable reviews among (many) critics when it first screened in various film festivals. In fact, it is so overwhelmingly positive that some critics has even praised the movie as "the best sci-fi movie in years". The good news is, LOOPER does delivers its praise -- writer-director Rian Johnson is bold enough to toy with the familiar time-travel concept inside out and making them fresh, exciting, original and unpredictable. But the bad news is, most of the high concepts here are sadly half-baked ideas that failed to accomplish as a satisfying whole. More on that later.

In the year 2074, time travel has been invented except it was outlawed. So in order to "close the loop", the mob who controls the time travel, send over their former assassins back in time by thirty years (2044) to do the killing. These assassins are called "loopers" -- a team of  youngsters who are assigned to carry out the hit immediately whenever the mob wants someone to disappear. Once the target appears in the specific location at a specific time, the loopers kills the person and gets a big payday in the form of silver bars. Among the most respected loopers in the team is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who makes his daily killing job like a walk in the park. He's got big plans to retire to France but one day, something gos terribly wrong. As Joe patiently awaits the appearance of his next target at the regular corn field, he is shocked to learn that he meets his future self (Bruce Willis). Nevertheless, the younger Joe hesitates to pull the trigger and the older Joe takes his opportunity to knock him down and escape from his sight. Realizing he's in deep trouble, he needs to clean up his mess before his uncompromising boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels) finds out about the matter. However, the trouble doesn't stops there, as the older Joe is somehow involved to find the "Rainmaker", a mysterious mastermind who has taken over all organized crime and is attempting to close all the loops for unknown reasons.

The concept is fascinating enough -- at least for the first quarter of the movie. Johnson has presented us a futuristic world that feels particularly lived-in, thanks to his sparing use of CGI and practical effects. His love of film noir is beautifully mashed together as well, and he's certainly very attentive to detail when comes to production value that is a sight to behold. You wouldn't believe this actually can be done in a tight budget of $30 million where it can rivaled any big-budget Hollywood picture of a like-minded genre. The action is also well-crafted, and Johnson doesn't skimp on violence. Even though the action is mostly nothing more than a regular shootout, they are staged with precision like a classic gangster movie. The result is simply breathtaking. If only Johnson sustains the momentum until the end of the movie, it would be qualified as one of the best sci-fi movies in recent memory.

But somehow Johnson loses control halfway with his drastic tonal shift. Don't get me a wrong, a sudden shift of tone can be a good thing if it's done properly. Sure, It has some element of surprises here and there, that caught you off guard but the problem still lies in its haphazard execution. Once the movie settles in the corn field which involves a devoted mother named Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon), the pace becomes awfully slow. There are times it's hard to sit through, as if Johnson is wasting time going around the circle and struggling to get back into the pace. Here, whatever fascinating concepts that introduce earlier, are surprisingly toned down into a series of matter-of-fact scenarios. Even the subsequent cat-and-mouse chase that involves the older Joe in the city is more of an afterthought.

Thankfully, the movie manages to jolt back to life once the all-hell-breaks-loose finale but then again, it's too little and too late.

The cast, in the meantime, are all outstanding. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is made to look like a younger version of Bruce Willis with a fake nose and some makeup effect, is as charismatic as usual. He even manages to mimic Willis's trademark smirk perfectly. For Bruce Willis himself, it's good to see him having fun with his regular action mode. His memorable moment is certainly the one where he encounters the younger Joe face-to-face at a diner.

Despite all the long-winded moments involving Sara and Cid at the corn field, Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon manage to accomplish their supporting roles with top-notch performances. Blunt is engaging enough to play a tough lonely woman who speaks with a convincing Southern accent. Gagnon is simply exceptional, almost a scene-stealer if you will, with his tour de force performance as a mysterious kid who is great in facial expressions and delivering lines. Rounding up the great cast are Paul Dano as one of the unfortunate loopers who eventually gets killed, and Jeff Daniels who does most of his acting from behind a desk but still manages to make his character memorable -- particularly the one where he delivers a dynamic speech about the high stakes of a life being a looper to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Seriously, LOOPER could have been a masterpiece if not for Johnson's inconsistent tone and pacing issues. But for all the glaring flaws that suffers in this movie, LOOPER remains a fairly worthwhile effort.

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