I've never understood the desire to travel in time. Forget the future. Call me a cynic, but I don't see much to look forward to -- with choices like global devastation, overcrowding, resource wars, the eventual plutocratic world order and the slave underclass they rule through the brutal fists of soldier police and ruthless crime syndicates that terrorize the lowest and weakest. Take your pick if any of those sound appealing but I tell you, it's going to be fucking Thunderdome.
And who would want to go back in time? Sure, I guess you could make the right bets and get rich. Basically you'd be the smartest human on earth if you suddenly decided to reset your life to Victorian era England or the old American West. But they didn't have the internet, Breaking Bad or air conditioning so, no thanks.
Taking Aim. Emily Blunt is ready for action in the time travel thriller "Looper."
But there's no denying that time travel could serve some cool, very practical purposes. Like disposing of bodies one might want gotten rid of. That's the initial hook of writer/director Rian Wilson's smart, new, imaginative sci-fi adventure, Looper.
In the year 2044, the fall of American Empire is in progress, felt even in Kansas City, Kan. Vagrants are the new majority and organized crime flourishes in the beds of decaying society. Infrastructure is crumbling. Even the well-off drive hover bikes that are poorly constructed and only start about half of the time.
China is the dominant super power -- it's hinted that the yuan has replaced the dollar -- and, weirdly, roughly 10 percent of the population are TKs, carrying a mutated gene that gives them telekinetic powers, though mostly it's used as a parlor trick to make coins and Zippo lighters dance in midair.
Against this backdrop we meet Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who works as a "looper." Thirty years in the future's future, time travel has been discovered ... and immediately outlawed. Unfortunately, the mob doesn't feel compelled by the law. In 2074, it's pretty easy to catch a murderer, which is kind of a pickle. So the mob uses the technology to send "problems" back in time where waiting is a "looper" armed with a blunderbuss, whose job is to kill the traveler and dispose of the evidence. After all, you can't find a body in the past and you can't be guilty of killing someone who hasn't been born yet.
But when a crime lord in the future begins a hostile takeover, "loops" start to close. That's when the looper's future self is sent back to be killed. The rewards for this are vast, but it puts a 30 year end date on their lives. If a looper doesn't kill his future self, his life becomes forfeit to Abe (Jeff Daniels, making an unlikely killer), a mob enforcer from the future, tasked with making sure the ship runs smoothly in the past.
Of course, Joe gets sent his future self (in the form of Bruce Willis) to take out. Unsurprisingly, the once and future John McLane has something different in mind.
But that's only half the movie. What's so great about Looper is not just its detailed, lived-in world or even the time travel hook. It's the writing behind it all. Wilson has crafted a larger world beyond what we see, and he's created a strangely multi-genre film setting a budding love story -- when Joe meets Sara (Emily Blunt) -- amidst the backdrop of time assassins, telekinesis, shifting geopolitics and genetic evolution. Oh, and Bruce Willis kills the shit out of a bunch of dudes. It's pretty sweet.
Wilson roots it all in a tangible reality as his clockwork scripting builds the familiar premise into something more gracefully complex, winding genre threads into a fulfilling whole and taking the audience in unexpected directions. Sorry to sound vague, but the surprises of Looper should stay that way.
On top of the great script, Wilson shoots a great looking film, employing his own brand of visual kinetics with his go to cinematographer Steve Yedlin (Brick, The Brothers Bloom). Shots spiral -- or loop -- though Wilson never really goes overboard with that visual metaphor. He captures the rich production design with a deft, confident hand, pulling back further and further from urban decay to a pastoral, blood soaked apocalypse.
Levitt, Willis and Blunt are all on their game here. Levitt and Willis in particular really sell the idea of being one and the same, which lends to a disconcerting suspension of disbelief when they sit across from each other in a diner booth sizing each other up and arguing about their futures.
While Jeff Daniels makes for a fairly unthreatening -- or unconvincing -- mob boss, he did bring his undeniable comedic charm to a fairly humorless film. While not dour, Looper is certainly dystopian. Daniels inherent lightheartedness added a nice sense of balance.
Smart, imaginative and, most importantly, original sci-fi deserves an audience amidst the seas of ersatz knock-offs, remakes and endless sequels. Looper is certainly deserving of success and, after a summer of schlock, audiences deserve this kind of fun, compelling and unique storytelling.
2 Days in New York
Writer/director Julie Delpy, the waifish and lovely French actress (with a filmography that ranges from the amazing The Three Colors Trilogy to the awful An American Werewolf in Paris) follows up her wistful, 2007 romantic comedy 2 Days in Paris with more or less a direct sequel, the charming and frustratingly uneven, 2 Days in New York.
Delpy, reprising her role as Marion, has followed Jack -- her boyfriend from Paris portrayed by Adam Goldberg -- to New York and given birth to his son. Soon, their relationship predictably spirals down the drain and Marion finds herself confiding in Mingus (Chris Rock), her twice divorced, single dad co-worker at The Village Voice, and radio personality who dreams of meeting Barak Obama. The two quickly fall for each other and move into his Manhattan townhouse.
All seems well until Marion's vacationing father, Jeannot (real life dad, Albert Delpy), and sister, Rose (Alexia Landeau), arrive with Rose's schizo, pothead boyfriend -- and Marion's former lover -- Manu (Alexandre Nahon). Jeanott's passing relationship with bathing, Rose's uninhibited sexuality, and Manu's ex-status, cause a culture clash and have Mingus re-evaluating his future with Marion. Her family's presence and the oncoming gallery opening of her photographs -- all of her in bed with many of her ex-boyfriends -- bring forth a heretofore unseen "crazy bitch."
Hands Full. Julie Delpy stars and directs the comedy "2 Days in New York."
Delpy, starring and directing here while sharing scripting credits with co-stars Landeau and Nahon, has crafted a charming, often funny -- sometimes grudgingly so -- film whose episodic nature and lackadaisical narrative combine into a pleasing, if uneven story. Many of the laughs are scored on surprisingly low-brow gags (be it Landeau's improper nakedness in inappropriate social situations or scoring a joke on the back of Albert Delpy's balls) and unwittingly racist stereotypes (old French men smell while Manu is amazed that he's met the only black dude who doesn't get high). The randomness, again a byproduct of the script's episodic feel, feels like a cross between the Zucker Brothers and Woody Allen. Not altogether a bad thing, but there is the sense of throwing jokes at the wall to see what sticks.
Fine performances from both Delpys, Rock, Landeau and Nahon are supported by some odd cameos as Marion has to make up a story about a brain tumor to keep her snooty neighbors (Dylan Baker and Kate Burton -- the first I've seen of her since Big Trouble in Little China) from getting her evicted to an even odder turn from Vincent Gallo playing himself, as the anonymous buyer of Marion's soul.
2 Days in New York is a pleasing concoction that has a life of its own, despite skirting the Woodman's territory, finding humor in its well-drawn and ultimately endearing characters. If light and funny is what you're looking for, look no further.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Cinema to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Share this article: