What goes around...
This is where the audience’s attention ultimate settles and the meaty story, a feast for the mind, allows for fevered contemplation. Gordon-Levitt is driven by the impetuousness of youth and the imperatives of the present, ignoring his older self’s plea for understanding and the woman he tells him, will “one day save your life”. Could you bring yourself to care about a person you hadn’t met yet, even if the endorsement came from an older you? It’s a dilemma.
So too the moral case for finding the mysterious “Rainmaker” in childhood – the future syndicate boss responsible for the death of Willis’ wife, who’s subsequently marked for infanticide. His younger self gets to know one of the suspected pre-schoolers and his mother, Emily Blunt, creating a unique quandary for all concerned. “This time travel stuff will fry your brain like an egg,” Jeff Daniels tell us early on, and he’s not kidding; this story could bring on an aneurysm, but it’s a tale that never loses the perfect shape promised by that title.
Johnson’s made a handsome film on a slender $30m budget that could pass for a movie costing twice as much. There’s all the tech you’d expect in a story set in two future time periods but none of that mega-budget reliance on spectacle that subordinates plot and character to cameo roles. Here, those two players hog the stage and with some panache. It’s a plausible future that paints a picture of American decline in the middle of the century, complete with endemic vagrancy and dolled up old cars. The Kansas of 2044 is impoverished, in contrast to the glowing city of Shanghai. “I’m from the future,” Daniels warns Gordon-Levitt, hearing his plan to move to France, “go to China”. Like the best sci-fi, this movie can see which way the wind is blowing.
Its plot pyrotechnics and canny soothsaying aside, Looper can boast a gritty cast of characters, of the kind that could grace the pages of a Jim Thompson novel, and a couple of stand out performances. Gordon-Levitt, whose prosthetic surgery and aping of Bruce Willis’ ticks and mannerisms, makes the bridge between the two plausible, is a fine lead; the kind of flawed, cocksure anti-hero that populates the best noirs; while Pierce Gagnon, not yet in double figures, pulls off that most difficult of tricks – a genuinely compelling and frightening child performance. His transformation from cute kid standing in the background, forlorn look on face, to something far more sinister, is a sight to behold. This is a movie as well cast as it is conceived.
Johnson’s influences are clear enough – he riffs on everything from the aforementioned pulp writers to Phillip K. Dick and John Farris – but as he proved with Brick, he’s reverential without being derivative; like the best filmmakers his pet obsessions are a springboard for his own ideas, not a substitution for them. Looper deserves to be a huge hit, but whether it cuts through at the box office or not, its writer and director has cemented his reputation as a prodigious talent whose next venture will be greatly anticipated by anyone who enjoys stylish, cerebral cinema. Do make time for his present work.Pages: 1 2