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Movie Review: Looper

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Looper is set in 2044; there are flying bikes around, and if you are not a fancy killer with slicked-back hair, you are probably eating out of the trash and wearing disgusting rags. Hookers are still the same, though, and some stupid men fall in love with them, wanting something more than a regular service. One such silly guy is Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is made to look like a younger version of Bruce Willis, with crumpled eyebrows, a hooked nose and a nascent smirk permanently stuck on his face. Joe is a looper, who kills people from the future, condemned to death by mafia goons (also from the future) who control time travel. They appear out of nowhere in an abandoned cornfield and must be destroyed immediately because getting rid of the body is very difficult in 2074.

Joe is also an addict, putting colourful drug-drops into his eye regularly, so each room he enters goes round and round. One day, something goes wrong, and the older version of himself (Bruce Willis) escapes from the execution scene, sending a lot of bad people to chase both versions of Joe.

The younger Joe goes to hide on a farm, where a plucky single mother (Emily Blunt) lives with her telekinetically talented son (Pierce Gagnon). There young Joe learns a lesson or two about time loops, and how people become who they are. The older Joe has to kill the child who is to become the Rainmaker (an evil criminal lord from the future who will murder Joe’s future wife), and he will stop at nothing to complete his mission. Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed Looper, doesn’t spare anyone here, and rivers, squirts and showers of blood fill the screen.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a great job portraying Willis, even though the makeup and especially the carefully painted red lips are annoying. Emily Blunt is as strong as ever, portraying a lonely mother who has been through hell, and finds redemption (she abandoned her son at first) in taking meticulous care of her difficult, sometimes cruel child, whom she is determined to raise to be good, kind and noble, like herself.

There are a few plot twists in this generally strong script that are worth the wait. In this respect Looper is a delight. In terms of genre, the dystopian elements are really engaging (city vs. country, omnipresent spying, advanced technology vs. shabby noir settings, scarcity of resources, etc.) while the telekinetic line was distracting, as if from another movie, even though necessary to explain the plot.

The critics have welcomed Looper with open arms. They say it’s the best sci-fi since Children of Men, also drawing comparisons to 12 Monkeys and The Matrix. I left the movie theatre with one urgent need: to take a shower.

Is it just me, or is the sight of a small child’s face entirely covered in fresh blood of a person they have just killed an absolute horror? Is it the fact that I was born, raised and still live in Belarus, a country that lost a quarter of its population in World War II (it’s one-third, according to other estimates), and was taught from a young age that taking someone else’s life is a heinous, ugly crime?

I agree with the critics that Looper is an intelligent, thought-provoking, philosophical sci-fi flick, which is rare. But the sight of a full-cheeked boy covered in blood (he is 10 in the movie, yet looks five) was psychological torture for me. What has that frame added to the story? Why was it necessary? Would the message of the movie change without it? Emotional porn much, Rian Johnson? All the way.

About Sviatlana Piatakova

  • http://www.cinemalowdown.com/ Sherry

    The child is not 10 in the movie – the mom is lying to cover up his identity.

    I don’t take the taking of someone’s life lightly (and I don’t know anyone else who does, so not sure what you are trying to imply), but I didn’t think they went too far with the blood.

    We aren’t supposed to like it – it is supposed to be shocking, that’s the whole point.

  • http://svetapiatakova.blogspot.com Sviatlana Piatakova

    I know she is lying, but there is no information about the kid’s age online except that she says he is ten. My point? That it is completely unnecessary for the plot. I don’t need to be spoon-fed like this, I know my morals, and stuff that was shown in this movie, as well as In Bruges and Changeling (dead children) – is just ugly. If the directors think they can ‘straighten’ pedophiles and murderers by showing how cruel they are, that’s just idiotic. for normal people, however, no ‘lessons’ like these are necessary.

  • http://cinemasentries.com/ El Bicho

    The image was necessary because the more of a monster the child appears increases the stakes of the story. Old Joe’s position becomes more reasonable and Young Joe’s last decision more difficult.

    Sorry it didn’t work for you, but filmmakers have to do what they think best serves the story rather than concern themselves over one viewer, especially one that seems to complete miss the point if you actually think the director was trying to “‘straighten’ pedophiles and murderers.”

  • http://svetapiatakova.blogspot.com Sviatlana Piatakova

    Dear El Bicho, if you think that after watching Looper I think that the directors tried to straightened the aforementioned idiots, you are the one missing the point.

  • http://www.cinemalowdown.com/ Sherry

    I agree with Bicho’s assessment.

    The Rainmaker was not a murderer or pedophile (and I really don’t know what that has to do with Looper) preying on victims one at a time. He was a tyrant purging people en masse.

    I don’t think the director was trying to “straighten out” anyone.

  • http://cinemasentries.com El Bicho

    SvP, if you don’t “think the directors tried to straightened the aforementioned idiots,” why did write “the directors think they can ‘straighten’ pedophiles and murderers by showing how cruel they are” in Comment 2?

  • http://svetapiatakova.blogspot.com Sviatlana Piatakova

    In that comment I was referring to films In Bruges and Changeling which showed children’s suffering inappropriately, the same way Looper did. And Looper does feature a child murderer, if no one hasn’t noticed. And I quote it as an excuse that film makers use to insert those scenes – verisimilitude for the sake of making a change, which is bollocks. What it will do is it will soon lead to victimization of children on the screen in every shape and form, like we saw the gradual victimization of women. film makers need new turf to make their violence ‘edgy’. children are their new turf. and perfunctory interpretations of my comments and review is not going to help anyone.

  • Tricia

    If you thought this movie was gory just for the sake of gore, try watching Repo Men. I couldn’t even make it through that movie. I’m usually very touchy about gore. I think it can be implied without being shown. This movie did a pretty good job of that, by my standards. I think the reason that you’re supposed to see the child’s face covered in blood is because you’re supposed to see what he is capable of. You’re supposed to question whether a temperamental child with that kind of power is good for the future of the world. My opinion is that it worked in the movie. Seriously, watch Repo Men, and tell me how far you get into that one. I made it about 20 minutes. Lol. Anyway, I like your review! Different opinions make the world go ’round! :)

  • http://svetapiatakova.blogspot.com Sviatlana Piatakova

    Thanks for liking the review, Tricia! Thank God for different opinions in this world, it would be a very scary place otherwise… as to the shot being necessary, I hope everyone has seen ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ and how neuro marketing (used for trailers extensively) is utilized to create frames that ‘stick’ in one’s mind. Predictably, it’s based on fear, craving, sex. The frame with the bloody kid is exactly IT. For people who try to argue that it’s necessary to show the cruelty of the boy, I will say this: it simply goes against everything we know in psychology. The child’s need to protect a parent (in this case by committing murder) is completely natural. The cruelty of the boy is completely obvious in the way he treats his mother – if that is not clear to viewers, it worries me a little. But again this is apparent to folks who go deep and don’t look on the surface, and that is unfortunately not how many modern films are made – the target audience is not expected to be intelligent. Every artistic means used in a work of art has to have a purpose. Had it been a war movie, it could at least be condoned because of the magnitude of the theme of war. In ‘28 Days Later’ there is a child zombie – but there we talk about the possible extinction of the human race (started by humans, surely) so it can be forgiven. ‘Looper’ is just a dumb movie. And the red faced frame is just a neuro marketing technique. Bite me.