Roadshow (73min, $24.95) IF one were a precocious director, a timetravel film would be an obvious calling card.
At least that’s what I thought while watching Rian Johnson’s third film, Looper, the one that elevated him quickly, even to the point of wild speculation that he could direct the next Star Wars movie. He’s not; JJ Abrams is.
Looper is a futuristic thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a ‘‘looper’’ who disposes of bodies sent back 30 years by mafia villains.
Maybe I’m too cynical, but Johnson’s intelligent writing recalled that of the Nolan brothers ( Memento) and of the Wachowskis (the Matrix series). In a mannered way.
Like those films, Looper (MA15+, Roadshow, 114min, $39.95) wears its pretensions boldly, asking viewers not to try too hard to unravel inconsistencies in logic let alone ponder the odds of a future containing time travel.
At the same time, it is rather showy. But it’s a very good film and consequently a great calling card.
As you watch, you sense studio executives are simultaneously being cajoled into thinking: ‘‘Sure, you’ve made a movie that feels smart and has some cool special effects. We believe you, like Christopher Nolan, can reinvent our moribund comic book series.’’
Looper’s trick is that it isn’t really a time travel movie. And its vision of the future — a loose anarchy, eye-drop hallucinogens and rampant guns — isn’t particularly progressive.
Last week my young son watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick’s incredible 1968 film predicted Skype, iPads, in-seat entertainment, space shuttles and much more. Now, that was progressive.
Looper isn’t about creating a bamboozling Minority Report- type future though. At its core, Looper’s strength is its humanism in asking what a 50-year-old would tell his or her 20-something self (even if your old Bruce Willis doesn’t look much like your young Gordon-Levitt). And also in asking how far would you go for love.
Johnson has wrapped that up with all the stylistic trappings of a a good ol’ fashioned action thriller: a chase, gun fights and more lens flares than a JJ Abrams film. Very deftly.
I’m not sure many would have thought he had a Looper in him after his misfiring The Brothers Bloom. That romantic action comedy was precisely the film one would expect from a director coming off a brilliant noir thriller and low-budget debut, Brick, in 2006.
The Brothers Bloom looked like a Wes Anderson film and, like most Wes Anderson movies, fell tantalisingly short of being a complete film.
Looper, with its cracking screenplay and neat performances from Gordon-Levitt, Willis and Emily Blunt, is a complete film. Albeit one that is very happy with itself.
(MA15+) Universal (116min, $29.99)
(M) Universal/Sony (116min, $29.99)
(MA15+) Roadshow (260min, $29.95)