Movie Review: Looper [2012]

Looper [2012]

Looper [2012]
Director: Rian Johnson
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels
Runtime: 118 minutes

After 2005’s criminally overlooked Brick, it’s great to see director/writer Rian Johnson and lead star Joseph Gordon-Levitt collaborating once again. This time around, with a clever time travel sci-fi premise and a bigger budget, the results are even more impressive.

Looper takes place primarily in the not-so-distant year of 2044, with the focus being on a group of assassins known as “loopers.” Their job is to wait in a cornfield for their victims to be sent back to them from the future (2074), blindfolded, where the loopers promptly shoot them and collect their rewards. It’s a relatively easy job, but their one rule is to never let anyone escape, even if that means their future selves.

Looper [2012]

That’s exactly what happens to Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt). When presented with the prospect of killing his future self (played by Bruce Willis), Simmons hesitates, and as a result his target gets away. Now on the run from the mafia, Joe has to hunt down himself in order to complete his job. The plot gets a bit convoluted from there, adding in some romance with a single mother, Sara (Emily Blunt), and a mission to kill the future Rainmaker, a crime lord who is wiping out the loopers one-by-one. There’s a lot to digest, especially since time travel is involved.

Multiple viewings are definitely going to be helpful in analyzing and understanding Looper‘s multiple layers, but this is still a film that can be appreciated on its surface. For one, time travel is just one aspect of the film, and it is not the primary focus. This is more about the struggles of a particular character (Joe), in which time travel just so happens to have caused the conflict. Now, there are potential discrepancies with the time travel logic in the film (as expected with this subject matter), but for the most part, it works.

Looper [2012]

When I heard that Gordon-Levitt and Willis would be playing the same character, I had to do a double-take. The two really look nothing alike in reality, but thanks to the wonders of Hollywood makeup, the resemblance between the two in Looper is uncanny. Both stars deliver strong performances to boot, with the centerpiece of the film being an especially entertaining diner conversation between the two. Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also excel in their supporting roles, each integral to the film’s development.

In the end, Looper is a rather intelligent film that is both fresh and entertaining. There is a lot to take in, but it’s a fun ride, and it makes for one of this year’s more enjoyable experiences.

8/10

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The Adjustment Bureau [2011]
Director: George Nolfi
Genre: Romance/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

The Adjustment Bureau is a jack of all trades. Action, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, romance. There is something for everyone in director George Nolfi’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, “Adjustment Team”.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a young, brash New York Congressman with an aspiring political career. In 2006, he is gunning for a Senate seat and looks to be the front runner until some embarrassing pictures of his college antics turn up. He loses the race but meets the sexy and mysterious Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) right before he is to make his concession speech. As if by magic, there is an instant connection between the two in their brief but passionate encounter, and this inspires David to give a no-holds-barred speech, easily the best of his career. This breathes new life into his political career, but all he can think about is Elise.

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The potential relationship between David and Elise has omniscient barriers that are determined to keep them apart. This group of “case workers” as they like to be called is known as The Adjustment Bureau (made up of an impressive cast including John Slattery and Anthony Mackie). They keep track of everyone’s lives in order to make sure that everything goes according to the plan. One day David stumbles upon the Bureau in action and learns about their methods. They agree to let him live under two conditions: he cannot tell anyone about them (and if he does, they will erase his memory) and he must never see Elise again. Even with some knowledge of his potential future, David dares it all just to be with Elise. And that’s where the romance comes in.

The love plot leads to some predictable moments, but the movie is still quite enjoyable. The issues of fate and destiny are discussed in an intelligent and respectable manner, never opting to shove religion down our throats. I was very pleased with this, especially after watching the atrocious Book of Eli, a film that leaned far too heavily on religious themes. The Adjustment Bureau brings up some interesting ideas about whether there are forces beyond our control that keep our lives on track, and if “fate” can be avoided.

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The movie has two more-than-capable leads in the form of Damon and Blunt, and they have great chemistry together. During the heated bathroom sequence early in the movie, it is easy to see the instant connection between them. Damon, in particular, is on top of his game here, effortlessly playing the charming and charismatic politican. Blunt also does very well with what she has to work with here, although I would have preferred a little more depth to her character. The aforementioned Slattery and Mackie are great as part of the Bureau, especially Slattery who is in prime Mad Men form. Terrence Stamp also gets in on the action as the gruff advisor known as “The Hammer” who is sent in to take care of the escalating situation.

I can see how some viewers might be turned off by the movie — its last 15 minutes can get a little silly — but I was still pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it overall. The Adjustment Bureau has an interesting concept that brings up some thoughtful questions, and it is led by a very strong cast. Ambitious and inspiring, this film is well worth seeing.

8/10