Joseph Gordon-Levitt will not turn into Bruce Willis 30 years now, even if the studio would love new Die Hard sequels. No matter how hard Looper tries, Levitt can never be Bruce Willis.
When designing a time travel movie though and your one fault is the look of a famous actor, chance are you’re doing okay. Looper, for the uninitiated, is doing just fine.
Looper sends people through time to their deaths. Underground criminals have seized the technology after a government ban in the year 2044, and use the device to send unwanted types back into the past. It’s easier to dispose of the bodies in the present day; the future makes it almost impossible via various technologies.
These unfortunate travelers are disposed of by Loopers, troubled kids recruited to blast a blunderbuss into the chest of those sent back. It becomes a science. The name Loopers comes with a catch: Eventually, Loopers will be retired by killing their future selves. In this case, Levitt is Bruce Willis, and Levitt doesn’t pull the trigger.
That kicks off a manhunt, the Looper higher-ups trying to seize Levitt or Willis to put a stop to this time travel gaffe. Like any time bender, Looper has gaping holes, but like the best of them, focuses on the emotion. Time travel has effects, not physical, but emotional. The best sci-fi knows how to bring these elements out. Willis comes back through the decades to keep his life whole. Levitt wants to keep things as they are.
In effect, Looper boils down to one man fighting himself, while a third-party intervenes in this kind of/sort of war. While the film carries a tremendous amount of bloodshed and gunfire, it is too precise a tale to boil itself down into a puddle of violence. Levitt meets a woman, a loner who lives on a farm with her small son. Emily Blunt blurs the acting line to remove her own accent while creating a genuine romance. Levitt acts a loose moral party man, heavy on the drugs and sex. Blunt becomes his rock, although indirectly.
You can take much away from Looper, whether it is pulpy entertainment or the rules of time. This is an event that never locks itself down into one path; you are free to explore, change, and take chances that will impact your future. The message is obvious and well told within the narrative. Looper is granted bonus points for clear explanations. Dishing out the rules via narration and dialogue creates a double thread of clarity that ensures the audience will follow. When emotional peaks come, they hit hard, and it’s crucial that Looper’s set up is ingrained.
Credit also to young Pierce Gagnon, on-screen son of Emily Blunt who lights up the screen and is terrified when the call comes. It has been years since someone this young has dominated the screen as effectively as Gagnon. His crucial role, unknown to himself, only strengthens the sci-fi elements. If only the machines in the Terminator films were this smart…
Captured on film to great effect, Looper’s Blu-ray arrival is signaled with a clean encode from Sony. Grain is managed cleanly, and the disc is consistent in its compression. Aside from shifting cinematography that toys with focus, the look will pan out across every frame, never losing a clean, focused appearance.
Outstanding close-ups will reveal exceptional fidelity that stays with the camera as it pans back. Grassy fields are essential to the film, resolved with substantial resolution. Pans or static shots as characters pause in front of those elements are spectacular. Future cityscapes, with their soggy, rundown, computer generated appearance also offer up the highlights. Sharpness, where intended, is at the peak of this format – new release or otherwise.
Taking on a slightly trim color palette means the dilution of primaries. The exception will be hazy, orange flesh tones that take on a life of their own. Certain hues will gain life, lights trimmed with blue lens flares, trees striking with their greens, but Looper is always a bit saggy by design. It fits. There remains no visual separation between past and future either, a call that avoids a distinct visual identifiers while demanding audience participation.
Black levels, when needed most, are the only downside. Dim, nighttime interiors will lose their luster before eagerly awaiting their next opportunity. That’s what they’ll perk back up. Those handful of shots are the only lax moments that detract, unless you’re prone to photography that spoils focus. Shots of Jeff Daniels in his office certainly carry a changing focal point as he moves around a bit, taking detail with it. That’s by design, and the mountain of other key close-ups more than compensate.
Looper has a tremendous soundstage to work with, utilizing the expanse of the speakers to deliver a full bodied, specific audio style. Elements balance exceptionally, with gunfire planted in the appropriate speaker to match the action perfectly. Looper likes to expand, with moments of pure quiet countered by large impacts of music, weather, or shoot-outs. You cannot miss the scenes where Looper takes off.
The key is this DTS-HD mix doesn’t miss anything. Trains pass by and pan around. Gunfire takes off and finds a location to stop. Club music sprawls over the mix. Dialogue tracks through scenes. The specificity of it all is immersing from the start, and only becomes better.
Some may find the impact too high. There is a little lack of control here, but raising the fired shots over the dialogue acts as an action wake-up call. Moments of Willis breaking out his old time run-and-gun style should be celebrated with a mix of this caliber. It’s enormous fun.
Director Rian Johnson joins two of his stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, in a commentary track. A whopping 22 deleted scenes follow with optional commentary, running over a half hour. The Future from the Beginning is an eight-minute promo you’re better off without.
The Science of Time Travel is a fun, surface level discussion on the possibilities of traveling through the ages, offering baseline information that is just enough to make you think. Scoring Looper is great, split into three sections as composer Nathan Johnson works through the process of creating. A stack of trailers remain.