In another universe, there exists a big budget studio of this film that does far less with its concept then you expect. A version where the digital eye candy takes precedent over characterization and where action kabuki takes the place of emotional stakes.
Surprisingly enough, that version has Bruce Wills in it too. (What can I say? The man loves to work.)
The good news is that we got the low-budget, character driven version of this film in this universe. And it’s hella awesome!
The down side. The dull studio version of this film is in the same universe where Al Gore won Florida, Osama Bin Laden miffed 9/11, killing himself in the process and we all now live like The Jetsons.
It’s also the universe where Natalie Portman just gave me a hand job.
Everything is a trade-off.
Rian Johnson is that rarity in films. A guy who’s really good at character work and who really loves genre.
His first film, “Brick” took both the High School movie and the 40’s detective film and smushed them into an oddly effective little heartbreaker. Now, he’s taken the Time Travel movie, 40’s film noir and added a pinch of dystopia and turns it into a worse case scenario of what happens when the choices you make as a young man come back and bite you on the ass. And even more amazing, he’s done it without having to without having to resort of simplistic tropes of good vs evil. Every character in the film has their own valid reasons for doing what they do in the film.
Young Joe wants Old Joe dead because he knows otherwise, he’ll be killed. Old Joe wants to live so he can kill the Rainmaker and save the wife he loved and lost in Shanghai. Sara wants to protect her child. Abe wants to make sure that the Looper system runs smoothly.
(And while in any other film, Abe would be the villain by dint of being the mobster in charge, Johnson writes him and Jeff Daniels plays him with such warmth, he’s less a boss and more of parental figure. He’s the adoptive dad who picks you up and teaches you a trade. The fact that the trade in question is murdering people from the future seems entirely incidental.)
Cid wants to save his mother from harm. And Kid Blue…he just wants dad to love him again.
In an age where genre films seem dead dog determined to gstaple black and white hats on all their characters, Rian Johnson refuses to bend to that trend and to paraphrase Jean Renoir, prefers to give everyone their reasons.
If he wants to go that way, Rian Johnson could become the Anton Chekhov of Science Fiction.
The only question becomes, does he want to go that way? Or does he want to pull two more genres out of his hat and mix them up next?
All I can say is that I can’t wait to see which way he breaks.