Sunday 30 September 2012

Movie Review: Looper

93% on Rotten Tomatoes? Holy cow, I had to go see this one. And it didn't disappoint, but... But I'll come back to that in a moment.

Set in 2044, this science fiction film centers on the idea of time travel. Our protagonist is a Looper, a killer for hire who dispatches his targets in the past. In the future, over 30 years in the future after time travel is invented in 2074, criminal organisations set up hits by sending the person into the past so as to have a foolproof way of disposing of the body. What happens if somebody is sent back in time and supposedly executed before they were born? What would happen to the timeline? If that wasn't thought-provoking enough, at some point a criminal organisation decides to rid itself of the looper himself by sending the older looper back in time where the younger looper kills the older version of himself. It's an odd situation brought about by the logic of time travel and while it's confusing describing it here, the film does a good job of telling its tale of it. Overall, this is a good story, well acted and well filmed. It is surprising to learn the budget was only a paltry thirty million.

Yes there are the actors. (Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt no less!) Yes there is the cinematography. And yes there are the special whiz-bang effects. But first and foremost there has to be a story and a compelling one at that. Behind the typewriter, ah, keyboard is Rian Johnson, a relative new-comer on the film scene. I would add that he may be new but he seems to be batting close to a thousand so far. He wrote and directed the 2005 film Brick which garnered 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and the 2008 caper film The Brothers Bloom which clocked in at 66%. That represents three films written and directed by this gentleman with an average of 79%. Is this guy a bit of a wunderkind?

I Hate Time Travel
And now for the "but" I mentioned earlier. The term "deus ex machina" refers to a plot device where the author paints himself into a corner and can't come up with a logical way of solving his predicament so introduces something new and possibly extraordinary to do so. You have the murder of Lord Axberry and are wondering whether the butler did it. Nope, an alien spaceship landed on the front lawn and little green men inadvertently killed the Lord while giving him an anal probe. Nope, a poltergeist in the hall closet jumped out and scared the crap out of the Lord so much he had a heart attack. Nope, an older version of himself came back in time and killed his younger self which caused a ripple in the space-time continuum resulting in his older self disappearing because he no longer logically existed since his younger self was dead. Got it? Take your time. It can be a challenge trying to wrap your head around that one.

Maybe it's me and my little quirk but I find it more compelling and more satisfying if the author presents me which a logical explanation for what transpires. Yes the butler did it and here's how he did it. I don't remember Agatha Christie falling back on aliens or ghosts or time travel. Okay the whole idea of time travel opens the door to all sorts of logical conundrums, perplexing contradictions in a storyline, which can make for great talk over a few beers but thank God that so far this remains just theory. Who knows what the heck we're going to be letting ourselves in for if somebody someday invents time travel.

As an FYI for all those inveterate lovers of time travel, I would direct you to the master Ray Bradbury and his 1952 short story "A Sound of Thunder". It not only deals with the paradox of time travel, but seems to have been the source for the term "The Butterfly Effect". I read it when I was 12 years old and have never forgotten it.

Final Word
This is a good film and well deserving of its ranking of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. While time travel is not one of my favourite themes in science fiction, the author did an excellent job of handling it and of pointing out in the somewhat surprising conclusion, how the concept of time travel leads to some unusual twists of logic. I would recommend it. This is worth shelling out a small fortune for a bag of popcorn and a large drink. If you're going to travel to the cinema, you might as well make your time a good one, a good, ah, time travel.


Rotten Tomatoes: Looper: 93%
As thought-provoking as it is thrilling, Looper delivers an uncommonly smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action.

Wikipedia: Looper (film)
Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action film written and directed by Rian Johnson. The film stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. It was selected as the opening film of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. The film was released in Australia on September 27, 2012, and released in the U.S. and the U.K. on September 28, 2012.

official movie web site: Looper

Wikipedia: Deus ex machina
A deus ex machina (Latin: "god from the machine"; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. It can be roughly translated as "God made it happen," with no further explanation, and, depending on usage, is primarily used to move the story forward when the writer has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out. However, in other cases, it is used to surprise the audience, or, commonly influenced by editors and/or publishers, bring a happy ending into the tale.

Wikipedia: The Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury (1952)
“A Sound of Thunder” is a science fiction short story by Ray Bradbury, first published in Collier’s magazine in the June 28, 1952. As of 1984 it was the most re-published science fiction story up to the present time. It is based on the concept that was later termed the butterfly effect.

Wikipedia: Butterfly effect
In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.


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