Looper Review
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When it comes to selecting new projects, most directors tend to stick with what works. Michael Bay blows stuff up. Christopher Nolan makes cinematic mindbenders. Peter Jackson makes Middle Earth fantasies. But that’s not the case for Rian Johnson. His 2005 debut, Brick was a strangely poetic crime drama. The 2008 follow-up, The Brothers Bloom, was a quirky crime caper. At the time, while talking to press at the Toronto International Film Festival (check out the interview), Johnson revealed that his next project was a dark, violent sci-fi thriller—leaving the entire room of journalists momentarily speechless. But now, with his third feature, Looper, Johnson shows that his films have just one thing in common: they’re all fresh and creative and brilliantly disorienting.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a slick assassin with a simple, straightforward job. You see, in the future, time travel is possible, but it’s also illegal. Still, certain crime syndicates secretly use the technology to send people back 30 years into the past to be killed and disposed of by men known as Loopers.

Once the syndicate is done with a Looper, they send his future self back in time to be assassinated, thereby “closing the loop.” And ever since a ruthless new crime boss known as The Rainmaker came into power, it’s been happening more and more.

When Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back, though, he manages to escape. Young Joe is determined to track him down and close the loop—but Old Joe is just as determined to change the future.

Time travel movies are tough to get right. After all, the idea alone comes with a multitude of pretty serious complications. But while most time travel films try to gloss over the issues, Looper boldly confronts many of them head-on. The result is complex and magnificently messy—and it’s sure to make your head spin. But Johnson handles it all remarkably well.

The inventive young director definitely knows how to make a delightfully disorienting film. Each of his movies has had clever twists that throw viewers just slightly off-balance—from the language of Brick to the timeless world of The Brothers Bloom. In Looper, it’s the dark and grungy near-futuristic setting—not to mention Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s strange Bruce Willis-ish makeup. As you’re struggling to get your balance, Johnson continues to throw curveball after curveball—and those shocking bursts and clever little touches will keep you reeling from the first gunshot to the last.

The cast, meanwhile, couldn’t be much better. Gordon-Levitt is pretty impressive as a young Bruce Willis—and while Willis himself often goes a little over-the-top with his action scenes, that’s all a part of the fun. Even the supporting actors (like Jeff Daniels, who plays Joe’s boss) give memorable performances. Perhaps the strongest performance, however, comes from Emily Blunt, who’s outstanding as a strong and determined young mother who will do anything to protect her son.

Granted, like any time travel movie, Looper isn’t flawless. It leaves its share of questions and plot holes, but it’s such a clever concoction that you’ll easily overlook its faults as you get caught up in the action and suspense.

Looper isn’t the kind of brainless popcorn flick that will help you unwind after a long week of work. Instead, it’s a Christopher Nolan kind of movie—the kind of layered and absolutely absorbing thriller that will mess with your mind and leave you in a haze. When it’s all over, you’ll want to go back and watch it all over again, just to catch some of the clever details that you missed the first time around.

Blu-ray Review:
The Blu-ray release of this original time travel thriller comes complete with a surprising number of special features. Most Blu-ray releases come with a few deleted scenes, but the Looper Blu-ray release comes with 22 of them—about 40 minutes’ worth—all with optional commentary with director Rian Johnson. There’s also a cool animated trailer for the film, along with an laid-back commentary track with Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and (later) Emily Blunt.

Other extras include The Future from the Beginning, a brief making-of featurette that discusses the creation, the cast, and some of the film’s old-school effects. And for more on the movie and its production, there’s the three-part Scoring Looper, which takes a look at composer Nathan Johnson’s inventive futuristic score. After introducing the process of using atypical instruments (from guns to car doors) to create music, each part also shows a scene from the movie with just the score.

And, finally, for more on the philosophy of the film, there’s The Science of Time Travel, which discusses scientific theories and how they work with the rules that govern the film.

The easy-going cast and crew members make the extras enjoyable. So while most viewers may not want to sit through all of the deleted scenes, the others are worth a look. After watching them, you’re sure to appreciate the film even more.

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