I remember leaving the movie theater in Cambridge in 2005 after seeing Rian Johnson’s debut film Brick. I don’t think I had ever been more frustrated by a film as I was by that one. I took the subway downtown and tried to fathom what I had seen and became increasingly annoyed. I called a close friend on my cell and she just let me rant as I stood on a street of my North End neighborhood describing what had played out. What was so frustrating about it was that it was obvious Johnson had a really interesting style. I don’t remember much of that movie anymore, but what I remember feeling was how could someone with such a unique way of seeing things, and such a unique way of telling a story, just overload his film with such pretentious crap. Why was he overcompensating when there was nothing that needed any form of overcompensating? He truly had something going there, but then loaded it up with just – I don’t know what it was, but it was BAD. And then I remembered, even though he was two years older than me, he was still a young filmmaker. It became clear he was trying to make a statement, to put all he had into his first attempt, and in the end it was bloated. I thought it was someone with such incredible potential just completely blowing it. Kind of like what Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) did on his second film, Southland Tales. Now comes Johnson’s third film, and after seeing it all I could think was, is it possible he has more up his sleeve? Is there a chance it can get even better than this? Because after seeing Looper, it appears he’s perfected his craft. In a lot of cases to me, that means taking a visionary style and blending it with some semblance of classicism and pop culture, so that everyone “wins”. There is something here for everyone, and based on the trailers I think it can leave people understandably skeptical. It portrays a look that it’s just another one of these futuristic, lifeless, run of the mill, seen it all before action flicks. But Looper has a real beating heart to it. It’s grounded, it’s human, and while being very fun from beginning to end, there’s a real story here that no matter what the setting is, everyone can relate to. One of it’s best elements is that it doesn’t get too convoluted. It’s a time travel movie, and screenwriters with that subject tend to just go completely overboard. I’m not even sure that mess of a film Inception was about time travel, but it terribly jumped around all over the place so many times just to make up for the fact that there was just nothing there at all with the characters. Looper doesn’t fall into that trap. The basics are simple. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a man who lives in the year 2044. In 2074, time travel has been invented, but outlawed, and now only the highest levels of organized crime use it. When these crime lords have people they need to get rid of, they send them back in time, to where people called loopers are waiting to kill them on the spot, and dispose of their bodies as if they never existed. At times, they have to send the loopers of 2074 back in time, to be killed by the versions of themselves from 2044. When that happens, it’s called “closing the loop”. So Joe’s older version of himself (Bruce Willis) is sent back from 2074 to 2044, and that is where the dilemma begins. That is the very moment where I started getting fidgety. I thought “uh-oh, this is where films like this generally get out of hand and go completely downhill”, and there were a few moments where it seems we were going down that path. But then enters Sara (Emily Blunt) and her 10 year old son Cid (Pierce Gagnon), and the soul of the movie just reveals itself, a soul that I doubted before going into the theater would even exist at all. I won’t go any further, as it would truly be disservice to what plays out, but suffice it to say I think this is the only big budget action flick that had me wiping away some tears at the end. It’s really beautifully done, and to me it’s hard to resist a movie that in the end emphasizes what it means to be not only a parent (not that I know anything about that, but from seeing the great job my friends do with their children, I do understand it a bit I think), but what it means to give a child not only the best environment possible to grow up in, but to do anything you can to be as happy and proud of who they are so they can live up to their potential. This movie is not preachy in any way, at all, and it’s certainly possible I am reading too much into it perhaps, but it’s how it made me feel. But it also made me feel excited. For whatever reason it gave me the same feeling the reboot of Star Trek did when it came out four years ago. Although that was obviously an old story and – errr – a reboot, it felt so bright and fresh, and made me think of the times when filmmakers were at the top of their game releasing one original movie after another and not the sequels and remakes and reboots we see so often today. As modern and futuristic as this movie is, it also felt very “classic”, with great story telling, fantastic characters, and simple genuine originality. It’s a “popcorn movie” in it’s truest form – it’s what a movie going experience is supposed to be. Even Joseph Gordon-Levitt couldn’t ruin this for me, not even close. I am far from being a member of his fan club, and not that he gave a fantastic performance or anything, but I thought he added a lot to the movie in addition to the aforementioned. The only gripe I had is they could have done without having to try and make Gordon-Levitt look like a younger version of Bruce Willis so much. Just tell me he is, just imply it, and that’s fine. We really don’t need his eyes to have changed color, and altering the bridge to his nose and his slight impersonation. It wasn’t necessary and actually quite distracting. People believe and understand in others what they are on the inside when it comes down to it, so just perfect that and you’re good to go. But really, that’s my only gripe. I highly recommend this film. It’s a total blast throughout, with fantastic visuals, great performances from the entire cast, and it just breezes by so quickly – I’m quite sure most people will walk out thinking “When do I get to see this again?”. It’s quite funny in a way this is Johnson’s latest film. Maybe it’s a bit of a metaphor for his career, with a desire to loop back to 7 years ago and correct his younger self on what he did wrong. But without his past we wouldn’t have got to this moment, and we are all the luckier for it. I give this one 93 of Emily Blunt’s swift and hard LADYLIKE ax chops to a completely random tree trunk.