Looper (2012): Time After Time?

Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom), Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Pierce Gagnon as Cid the future Rainman. It is a science fiction/thriller/action film that takes place in the year 2044 and its main plot device is time travel.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a looper. Loopers, it appears, came into being right after time travel is invented in 2074. Immediately banned and made illegal by the government; the new time travel is used by huge criminal organizations as a sort of “Murder’s Inc” where “hits” are sanctioned and sent back to the past to be carried out by a looper.

So in the future hitmen become loopers and in the sense that some things never change, time travel is a criminal’s wet dream; presumably allowing more than just murder to fly the “airways.” When the target arrives in the past, he lands on a tarpaulin; hands tied behind his back and his head covered in a cloth bag.

The second he appears, the looper shoots him and rolls the body over to collect his “Judas” fee of silver bars. In an ironic twist, the loopers work for criminals from the future in the past. If you try to figure it out, you’ll just give yourself a headache. So don’t try, even Old Joe (Willis) says it’s beyond explanation (unless you use straws and salt).

In this world of murderous loopers one way to retire is when your future bosses send your future self back to be “whacked” this constitutes “closing the loop.” You get a literal golden handshake and you retire. Joe systematically does his job, learns French and relies on drugs to relieve the monotony of his existence.

When one of Joe’s fellow loopers, Seth (Dano) meets his future self, he is so shaken that he lets him escape. Seth comes to Joe for help and begs for a place to hide. Their boss Abe (Daniels) has already sent Kid Blue (Segan) to Joe’s apartment and they take Joe to see Abe. Joe then gives Seth up to Abe and gets to spend an hour with his favourite prostitute to ease his conscience.

Life goes back to “normal” which means Joe continues to kill his target at 11:30 in the morning and then go for coffee later. One day, the target is late. When it does arrive, he has no bag over his head and his hands are free. Joe is stunned and in the split second it takes him to fire his blunderbuss, his target (his future self) turns and the shot goes into the gold bars on his back.

As Joe pumps another round into the gun, Old Joe hits him with a gold bar; knocks him out and escapes. Joe awakens a bit later with a note telling him to run and catch a train out of town.

Well, it’s 11:30! Time to shoot another target.

Now here is the only spot in the film that confused me. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) returns to his apartment and in the ensuing scuffle, he falls off a fire escape and knocks himself out. We are then treated to a longish montage of Joe actually shooting “Old Joe” and then “living” his life until he marries a Chinese woman and, as Old Joe, gets taken from his house and put into the time machine for his younger self to shoot him.

I was a little confused to say the least. But it did not matter. Any film that deals with time travel is going to be confusing. There are going to be plot holes and mistakes and bits in the film where you can hear the audible sound of everyone’s chin thudding on the ground. But as Bruce Willis’s character says, “It’s doesn’t matter.”

Purists are now pulling their hair and screaming, “Yes, it does matter damn it. What about the space time continuum, blah, blah, blah…”

I say again it does not matter; especially in the verse of this film.

I’ll explain.

Years ago the late Ray Bradbury wrote some excellent science fiction novels. The Martian Chronicles was just one example of his work; immensely popular it was made into a film (once or twice) and a television mini-series. The point about Bradbury’s work is this: when Ray told you that some astronauts took a rocket ship to Mars, that is all he told you. There was no song and dance about what powered the rocket or its payload or its dimensions. It was not pertinent to the story.

Now if you wanted science fiction that was all about the “science” you read Issac Asimov or one of his peers who would gladly give you all the science you might require from your Sy Fy story. The books by either author were equally entertaining but, both were written from a different point of view.

I always leaned more toward Bradbury’s stuff, because I like a good story and I don’t need to know how many booster rockets are needed to get out of the earth’s atmosphere. I feel the same way here about Looper. It’s story about time travel, I don’t need a lot of dithering about with someone trying to explain every little nut and bolt about it. It just is; and I’m fine with that.

The film was vastly entertaining. Even though I did have some problem with Emily Blunt being in yet another movie (I mean, come on guys, is she the only actress available at the moment or what) and as much as I adore Bruce Willis, he also seems to be in a lot this year.

It would probably be easier to list films that Emily Blunt has not been in this year.

Of course this is the third time that the team of Johnson and Gordon-Levitt have worked together. They are starting to look a bit like the Burton/Depp combination; let’s hope that they don’t wind up as stale.

But I have got to say that although I was a bit “freaked out” by the prosthetics used on Gordon-Levitt’s face to make him resemble a young Willis, I was impressed by the fact that Joseph has Bruce’s speech pattern and phrasing down perfectly. I really believed that he could be a younger version of Willis. Very, very impressive to say the least.

The film moves at break neck speed and shows a future that is bleak and violent and (like The Divide’s setting) dirty and hopeless. Joe’s existence before he meets Old Joe is a series of events that all run together fuelled by drugs and emptiness. Despite this depressing background, the movie manages to look like what we imagine the world to look like in 21 years.

I do have to say that I’m impressed that Rian managed to get a “hover cycle” into the film.

My final verdict is that this was a cracking film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll say it’s definitely a 5 star film worth watching and that I’m sorry I missed this at the cinema.

Bruce looks as upset as I am about the hoverbike not working.

Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Dysfunctional Family Fun

Cover of "Little Miss Sunshine [Blu-ray]&...
Cover of Little Miss Sunshine [Blu-ray]
Written by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and directed by not one but two directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (these directors have been a ‘double-act’ for years, mainly in the realm of music videos and documentaries) Little Miss Sunshine is a ‘feel good film’ that entertains and amuses.

The film marks a couple of firsts. It was Michael Arndt’s first penned feature film and directorial team Dayton and Faris’s first full length feature film. Little Miss Sunshine had budget of 8 million dollars and was filmed in just 30 days on location in Arizona and Southern California.

It opened to rave reviews and to date has garnered a net profit of over 100 millions dollars. The film won two Oscars; Alan Arkin for best supporting actor and Michael Arndt for best original screenplay. The film went on to be nominated for a total of fifty-four times and garnered an additional fifty-two awards.

For an ‘Independent’ film, the cast list is impressive, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Paul Dano, and Abigail Breslin. It is overall an ensemble film, but it does revolve around Olive (Breslin) and her interactions with the family. She is the centre piece of the story and the other actors and events circulate around her.

The story is about the Hoover family. Richard (Kinnear) is the head of the family and he is peddling a “personal success” book and holding seminars to try and drum up interest in the book. He is a positive thinker who seems to be a cross between John Wayne – “Never apologise, it’s a sign of weakness” he says to Olive at one point in the film – and J.P. Morgan.

Sheryl (Collette) is the long suffering wife and mother, who tries to make the tight family budget fit their everyday needs and tries to keep the family happy. She is almost the polar opposite of Richard and she is the peace maker of the family.

Grandpa Edwin (Arkin) is the patriarchal head of the family, but in his mind only. He is old and he is busy trying all the things that are bad for you before he dies. He is full of advice, while the family are travelling he tells his grandson Dwayne (Dano) that  he should be ‘fucking’ all the women, not just those cute cheerleader type.[sic] He has helped Olive (Breslin) rehearse for her pageant competition by teaching her a ‘dance’ routine.

Picture of Abigail Breslin, American actress. ...

Olive dreams of competing in the Little Miss Sunshine Pageant and she gets her chance when the winner comes down with an illness. Dwayne hates his entire family and is refusing to speak to anyone, he writes his responses and statements down. He dreams of joining the ROTC for the Air Force and becoming a pilot.

Enter into the family mix Sheryl’s brother Frank (Carrell), he has just tried to kill himself and is suffering from depression since his male lover left him for another man.

When Olive finds out that she can compete in the Little Miss Sunshine pageant, the family decide to take her there. Thus begins the road trip that will tear the family apart and then bring them together again. On the way out to the pageant Grandpa Edwin dies and the family have to steal his body from the hospital, because they don’t have the money to pay the bill and they don’t have time to bury him.

When Olive finally gets to the pageant the family are at breaking point.  when it’s Olive’s turn to participate in the talent portion of the pageant she tell the emcee that she’s dedicating her performance to her Grandpa as he taught it to her. When the emcee asks Olive where her grandpa is, she says, “Oh he’s in the car.”

Rick James‘s Super Freak starts playing and Olive comes out and begins her performance, which to the pageant’s organiser horror is a variation on a strippers act. When the organiser demands that dad Richard remove her from the stage, he decides instead to join Olive on the stage and dance with her. In a show of solidarity the entire family join Olive and dance together on the stage.

This film from start to finish made me laugh, made me cry and made me care for the characters in the film. At the beginning of the film, you can’t help but dislike Richard with his ‘gotta win’ philosophy, but by the end of the film you love him.

You actually wind up loving the whole dysfunctional family. By the end they are less dysfunctional and have learned so much about themselves that you know they will continue to grow and support each other.

The film is about dreams and failure and the acceptance of both. If I am feeling low, I watch Little Miss Sunshine and even though I choke up at the end, I feel immediately better.