Bruce Willis doesn’t often do science fiction, but on the rare occasions he does, (12 Monkeys, Unbreakable, The Fifth Element) he seems to have good taste. Surrogates is perhaps the only exception, but that fairly average film had some great ideas. Now he’s popped up in the new feature by Rian Johnson, the writer/director of Brick.
The less you know about the plot, the better, but if you want a quick summation, this paragraph is for you. Set in the near future, Looper tells the story of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man who kills people who have travelled back in time from the future. His mysterious employers, thirty years in the future, send back his targets and he takes them out and collects his silver. When Joe’s older self (Bruce Willis) travels back to young Joe’s time, we know that some wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey shenanigans are afoot.
Gordon-Levitt has undergone a prosthetic transformation to make him look like a young Willis. The makeup effects are impressive except in bright sunlight, when he looks like someone wearing way too much foundation. Coupled with his incredible impersonation of the older actor’s voice and expressions, it’s an uncanny experience. Gordon-Levitt has Willis down to a T. Thing is, Willis doesn’t actually have much screen time in Looper, and when he does, he barely speaks. So the result is Gordon-Levitt out-Willising Willis, which is quite strange. And because he’s essentially mimicking an actor, rather than a character, it does have the potential to take you out of the film somewhat.
Fans of the time travel genre will have a field day with this film, and I mean that in a bad way. Looper doesn’t worry about the mechanics too much, instead focussing on having a rollicking good time. So if you’re the type of person that likes to ponder the ins and outs of the science behind films like this, you’re going to end up frustrated.
What we do have is a strong story with wonderfully realised characters. Emily Blunt plays Sara, a woman who finds herself at the centre of the two warring Joes, and though she is introduced late in the piece, the script provides her with actual depth. Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels have fun in smaller roles also.
Looper does a lot with its apparent $30 million budget, and has some wonderful (and some not so wonderful) visual effects. It’s the type of circular insanity film that we haven’t seen for a while, and has more than a passing resemblance to Terminator 2: Judgement Day and 12 Monkeys. It also – surprise, surprise – is one of the few films where the use of a voice over actually works. Those who enjoyed such mainstream sci-fi hits such as Inception and The Matrix should really dig this.Rating: