Director Rian Johnson teamed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt for his 2005 feature debut Brick, a high school story rooted in detective and noir fiction. Now the two join forces once again for another genre exercise: the time travel movie. Looper puts the heady sci-fi concept front and center, using it as a catalyst for a fast-paced action movie worthy of Bruce Willis, Gordon-Levitt’s opponent in the movie. The two play younger/older versions of the same character, Willis transported back in time to be assassinated by Gordon-Levitt’s “Looper” (a hitman for future mobsters).
“I came up with the idea 10 years ago,” explains Jonson. “There was a point where I was reading a lot of Philip K. Dick.” Further complicating the already heady story is the one job that Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe (what a stretch!) can’t execute: himself. Instead of overexplaining the scenario, Johnson set up a montage of footage from the film. It’s hard to tell how it all connects together, but Looper sports a near-perfect blend of blood-pumping action and heady, compelling character work. Joe kills people without blinking an eye, walking away from the grim line of work to party in the nighttime. The perfect life is thrown into chaos when Joe’s older self arrives and the chase aspect of the film begins. Joe’s instinct is to go to his employer, played by Jeff Daniels. A bit of exposition reveals that Joe is youngest Looper ever hired. Age, history and time — reoccurring themes.
Looper doesn’t look as overtly “epic” as Inception in terms of scope, but it’s melding of ideas with innovative action scenes (Johnson’s choice of angles and camera movement feels distinct compared to most Hollywood blockbusters) makes the comparison apt. A scene between Gordon-Levitt and Willis pulls on the brakes, allowing the two actors to get in each other’s heads and spar with one another. Gordon-Levitt offered some insight into his characterization at the panel: “I thought an imitation would be distracting. I wanted something that felt real. I took the audio from his movies and put them on my iPod. Bruce recorded some of my voice over lines so I could listen to them.” Gordon-Levitt’s take on Willis is a complete transformation, and unlike the over-the-top style of late, the young actor has found the tapped into the legend’s defining, quieter side. “What’s striking about Bruce is that he’s actually a soft spoken man.” says Gordon-Levitt. “You know why? Because he doesn’t want other people listening to him and he doesn’t have to speak up. Big macho guys who talk loud and have a big presence in a room – they’re scared. A guy like Bruce doesn’t have to raise his voice, he doesn’t have to let people know. That struck me.”
The extended trailer concluded with a barrage of action imagery. Things get quite out of whack in the world of Looper by the second half of the film, events that only questions can describe. Why are things randomly floating in the air? What was that shockwave blasting through a corn field? How did Joseph Gordon-Levitt get his hair to do that amazing single strand thing? When Looper rolls around later this year, we’ll hopefully see a few of these questions will have answers and they’ll be found on the edge of our seats.
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[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]