Oct 1, 2012

Looper – An Alternate Take

Vladimir Rakhmanin

Deputy Online Editor


We already have a review of Looper up on the site, so I’ll keep this nice and short. Looper is a good film. It is not a great film, and it is most certainly not ‘this decade’s The Matrix’, as numerous bus stop ads have promised me. While I relatively enjoyed my time watching this daring sci-fi film, I found it to be severely over-hyped, the film’s positive points being blown way out of proportion. I realise I am in the minority here – the film, at the time of writing, is scoring 93% on RottenTomatoes, and the majority of the people I know enjoyed the picture greatly (indeed, our very own Oliver Nolan gave the film a 5/5 rating) – however, I feel like I have to point out the film’s glaring flaws. While I am trying to keep the article spoiler-free, bear in mind that I will be speaking of the film’s second half in vague terms, so if you are one of those people that like to go into a film completely blind, you would be best off saving this article for later.

First of all, the film’s first half does not mesh with the second half in terms of tone at all. The first half sets up a genuinely interesting sci-fi world (I loved the grimy look, as opposed to the cliché glossy sheen that covers a lot of the genre’s technology), complete with a good time travel mechanic and some fun action sequences. The second half, on the other hand, suddenly becomes a horror film, complete with a creepy The Omen-style child. Now, this wouldn’t have been a problem in itself – the way this part of the picture is filmed is gorgeous, featuring startling imagery, unusual transitions and beautiful static shots – what bothers me is the fact that it feels like it belongs to a completely different film. This is the same problem that this summer’s Prometheus faced – it also featured some great horror sequences, which didn’t sit well amidst the generally ponderous, philosophic tone.

Secondly, and we’re veering into slight spoiler territory here, I felt like a lot of the film’s plot points were merely red herrings that had little to do with the main story. For instance, the way Sarah’s child’s backstory was set up, you would have thought it would be important, that it would be a set up for some sort of big twist – but no, it had no relation to the main plot. It is a little difficult to speak about these things without mentioning spoilers, but this happened very often. Small character quirks, like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character wanting to learn French, are interesting, but the reason for them is not driven home well enough. I understand why the protagonist needs to learn French in terms of character development, but this development is simply not done well enough.

My final concern with Looper is the fact that it simply does not make full use of the time travel aspect, and this is really disappointing. For the first twenty minutes, I was on board. I was ready to fall in love with the complex sci-fi narrative – unfortunately, all of this isn’t used to its full extent. The themes that the film raises are noble and timeless, but they don’t make use of the structure that the time travel plot element provides. In great time travel films, such as Primer and Triangle, the message of the film is tightly intertwined with the way the story is told – here, unfortunately, the structure is merely an afterthought, a way to tell a completely different story.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that Looper is overly ambitious – it tries to do too many things at once, and as a result, ends up only mildly succeeding in all of them. While I enjoyed my time with the film, I wished that it could have been much more, even though it had already done a lot of things right – I just hope that Rian Johnson manages to narrow his focus down thematically for his next film, and make the masterpiece that he truly deserves.

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