I saw the new movie “Looper” today.
This is what I knew about the movie walking into the theater;
- Bruce Willis was in it.
- It was something about a guy that is sent back in time to kill other people and stuff, and when they “retire” you they have you kill your older self, closing the ‘loop’.
I didn’t see any trailers, didn’t know anything more about the plot than that.
Now, I am a big Bruce Willis fan. That may not be enough to get you excited about a movie, but based on how well I’ve enjoyed his recent smaller productions, such as ‘Red” and “Surrogates”, I wanted to see this sci-fi actioner before it vanished to DVD.
A spoiler-free review
I can’t actually describe anything to you. I don’t know what magic in the way I approached the film might be lost if I explain anything of substance.
Anything I say might give you expectations, and if I even gush about it too much, or talk about the approach it takes towards things, you might have it built up so big that your expectations couldn’t be met by anything short of another Lord of the Rings.
This ain’t another Lord of the Rings, by the way. A teeny spoiler there.
What I can tell you is this.
I enjoyed the entire movie. Every step of the way, I was on the edge of my seat.
At the beginning, my expectations were that there would be shallow, cardboard cutout characters with flimsy motivations, big explosions and violence, and some good one liners by Bruce Willis. Also, I expected seriously cheesy, predictable time-travel science fiction.
What I got were characters that were good, solid, and damn well developed. And the movie didn’t beat me over the head with some “oh we are so serious, we studied at Juilliard look at the subtext layers” bullshit, either. I was gradually introduced to the basic setup, the initial characters, and the environment and then stuff got layered in a VERY natural way. No pretentious bullshit, it was stripped down, meaty rock and roll.
But it didn’t stay totally stripped down for long.
It kept building and building, it set a solid foundation early on and then, unlike most smaller movies, it USED that foundation and went off like a rocket.
I found myself becoming emotionally invested in the characters. I didn’t expect that. There was character growth, and yes it may in retrospect have been accelerated, but it’s a movie, and at the time it did feel very natural.
The characters felt like real, believable people with fucked up but real attitudes and decisions based on how they had been setup and acted.
The science fiction… the action. The plot.
All I can really say is, there are two types of sci-fi plots I usually identify.
There are ones that take an existing condition or idea and try to follow it through, foretelling what it might turn into naturally. Those kinds are usually very focused on getting the tiniest details just so. They’re built on the existing world and tweaking it a little, so small details have to be clearly thought out and resolved. If you are making a statement about the dangers of existing technology or philosophy, then you have to have every single duck in a row, or people will use a logical fallacy to pick it apart. “If they were wrong about x, then y must also be wrong.”
Then there are those sci-fi plots that take a big, honking bold idea, something currently impossible, truly no kidding impossible and then ask, “what if”.
This is definitely the second kind of movie. Big ideas, but bold ideas… but viewed at purely from the street level, once those ideas are put in the hands of the little guys.
You never even see the big picture. This is what you see in a tiny sliver of the world when Pandora’s Box is open, and the demons are loose, and what one group of people that most citizens don’t even have anything to do with get their hands on it.
This is a Goodfellas film, or a Godfather, where all you really see is the world the bad guys live in, because that’s where the story takes place.
There are some big ideas here. And those ideas and how they are presented are very smart, very well thought out.
The movie does not allow itself to fall into the trap of having to explain every little thing to you. You are encouraged to watch, to follow along, and figure this shit out as you go. And enough is done well and explained ant intrinsically logical that I got the impression that if you could see the entire backstory they wrote, the science would make sense, but there is no realistic way that they could fit in all the explanations while people are either hunting down other people to kill them, or running for their lives.
Basically, I was wowed by Looper. Yeah, I’m gushing, but there it is.
I thought I knew what I was in for, and yes that is what I got, but I also got the bonus plan. It was more than I expected, in a good way.
I expected a light snack, and got a fulfilling meal instead. With an ending that left the people in the audience kind of stunned, and silent, taking it all in.
It’s that kind of movie. For a second, just before the credits roll, you stop and think, “Holy shit.”
You have to take a breath.
I’ll be honest, I’m sitting here, and even as I’m typing this, I’m still thinking about some of the ramifications of the plotline and how it all played out. And I’m not trying to pick it apart or look for loopholes, I’m working it out backwards, unraveling the thing and admiring how it all went.
I guess, here is how I would end a review.
Should you see it?
Well, putting aside your personal feelings about Tom Cruise, did you like the way the plot unfolded in the first Mission Impossible movie?
The first Mission Impossible was the one where, in the beginning, a con job unfolds before you, and there are lots of intricately timed movements, like watching a carefully choreographed ballet.
And then it all turns to shit, and how it turns to shit is at the heart of the movie.
Some of it is explained, but at the same time, most of it is left for you to figure out and keep up, we’ve got a movie to run, fuck spoon feeding you.
Did you like that? Did you like that feeling that they’ve got a story to tell, a visual story, and you’re expected to pay attention and figure some of it out on your own like a big boy or girl?
Put aside the rest of the Mission Impossible movie, did you like not having everything spoon fed to you? Like maybe you could figure some of this stuff out based on what you SEE?
Then I have to say, if you like that, and you like Bruce Willis, and you like science fiction action movies with guns and stuff, you’re going to damn well like this movie.
I just missed three hours of WoW playing on the Sunday afternoon the first week of release to see it, and I’m damn glad I did.
Oh, and as an afterthought, I hear they’re doing a sequel to Red.