TIFF 2012: Looper
Posted on Friday September 7, 2012, 17:17 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
My TIFF 2012 experience began with a chance encounter at Toronto Pearson airport, when I happened on Emily Blunt, who was waiting for her bags like a real, normal person (which is what she is, coming from the Barnes area, I think). Ms Blunt has two films here, one being Arthur Newman with Colin Firth, which I should be seeing Monday, the other being, of course, the mighty Looper, which I saw in London a few weeks ago. She was especially hyped about the Looper premiere, since it was then being trailed on TV screens by the carousels, and if she had any doubts, I should think they were wiped out by what I'm hearing was a fantastic reception last night.
For me, Looper is the sci-fi of the summer, which, accounting for climate change, is a good thing right about now. After the disappointingly wishy-washy Prometheus, which raised more questions about its questions than it ever had answers for, and the Swiss cheese of plotholes that was The Dark Knight Rises, Looper comes as a real gut-punch, not only raising questions of identity and morality but doing so in a time-travel framework that allows for hoverbikes, superdrugs and Bruce Willis with a machine gun. It is the not just the thinking man's action movie, it's the action man's thinking movie, a slick, well-realised genre piece that somehow doesn't seem as smart as it is until you've left the cinema. How can a film this violent, this much bubblegum fun, have so much to say?
The story is the hardest thing to describe, which might possibly hurt the film financially since it will struggle to get the one-line word-of-mouth pitch (“It's a new Batman movie!!!”) that its closest competitor could benefit from. However, fans of TDKR would do well to be sucked in by that film's, to me, best asset: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who expands on his role in Brick to play a hard-bitten loner here, a two-bit punk whose world is rocked by a chance encounter with himself. Or maybe it's not by chance; Looper is a film about Joe, a hitman working 40 years from now who arranges hits for a crime syndicate. Time travel is possible but illegal, and Joe's job is to bump off the still-writhing human packages that arrive from the future and dispose of the bodies. Joe knows that one day he may find himself in one of those bundles, but he resigns himself to a shorter life and blasts away at his own body when it drops into his sights one day. But this, remember, is a time travel movie. And when Joe, in later life, realises that crime isn't all that it's cracked up to be, he decides that next time he won't go so quietly.
Even that, written down, doesn't make much sense, but it will when you see the film (which of course you should). The idea of man versus self is ingenious alone, but the best part of this fabulous film is the way it plays out its characters. Both Joes are sympathetic, especially the Old Joe (Willis), who has to do something terrible to save the life of the woman he loves. And the most fascinating part is that Old Joe doesn't fuck with the space-time continuum in the way classic time-travel movies have in the past (he doesn't kill Hitler, or step on a rare species of flower/bird/insect). Old Joe's pained passion is the McGuffin of the movie: the real thing that's out of time and out of context. The plot-driver to watch is subtly introduced in gags and (literally) billboards, leading to a ripping stand-off that not only delivers tension and violence but stops the madness with a searing moment of calm and enlightenment, enough to flip the whole movie on its head.
Here, of course, we're getting into spoiler territory, so I'll stop there, pausing only to say what an amazing combo JGL and Willis make, with a special mention for Blunt as a rare female character with, well, character, not to mention backbone and heart. These things should come as next to no surprise, though; the real revelation is perhaps that Johnson has moved up a league far faster than anyone could have imagined, on his own terms, with a film that takes no prisoners.
Coming soon: Argo, Antiviral, Silver Linings Notebook, Perks Of Being A Wallflower.
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