Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: "Looper"

What I'm about to describe is one of the creepiest scenes I've witnessed at the movies this year:

In order to bring a man from the future out of hiding, a mafia syndicate captures his present self, and slowly tortures him. First, a message appears carved into the future man's arm, telling him to meet at a specific place and time. Then, fingers go missing. Soon, his tongue is gone. His feet next. Eventually, he is crawling to the location, where he is then executed. The present self is on a hospital bed, with blood everywhere.

For me, it isn't the fact that the future self wasted away in moments that I find frightening; it's that the present self must still live his life - dismembered and broken - for these events to happen.

Time travel as a weapon. Did you really think we'd use it for anything else?

"Looper" may not officially be a horror film, but it features some scary sequences and themes, as good sci fi should. It is mostly set in 2042 Kansas, where it appears that gangland violence and poverty have only gotten worse - at least we finally get hovering motorcycles. We follow Joe, a gangster known as a looper; someone who eliminates targets sent from the mob of the future, to his present. When his newest target - his future self - escapes, Joe gets in trouble with his boss, and must hunt himself to make things right. But, is it as simple as that?

With time travel, nothing is "simple". You see, there's the "12 Monkeys" (time cannot be changed) way of presenting time travel, and the "Back to the Future" (time can be changed, and multiple possibilities exist) method. "Looper" kind of has a variation closer to - believe it or not - "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure". In that movie, characters will tell themselves to go back in time and grab an object, and BOOM - the object appears in their hand, negating the need to go back in time. While that scenario doesn't play out in our story, similar paradoxical situations are offered. If you're not careful, your egg could fry like a brain.

The arc(s) of Joe (both of them) and how it is presented may be the best aspect of the story. There's a beautiful symmetry of personality happening here, as the two versions of the same man occupy the same space and time, and a wonderful irony when we see how the conflicts change both the present and future selves. A nomination for best screenplay is not out of the question, I say. 

If given the opportunity, would you kill child Hitler in order to prevent atrocities? What if you fail, and end up being the reason for the creation of the monster you tried to destroy? Could you live with that? Could you stop that? Can the chain be broken and the loop cut? I thought about this on the ride home after the screening.

It's chaotic, it's dark, and it's what I want out of sci fi. Characters are forced to make impossible choices in an almost impossible to grasp universe. The consequences of these choices reverberate backwards and forwards in time. Through such a nightmarish landscape, errors will be corrected and humanity will be revealed.

Great story, great acting, great effects, really great music and a perfect atmosphere make for one of the best films of the year. Go see it; your future self will thank you.

5/5 *'s


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