Friday, February 22, 2013


2012, US, directed by Rian Johnson

Perhaps it's the influence of parenthood, but as the credits rolled the first thing that popped into my head was to wonder whether director Rian Johnson has a child with a propensity to apocalyptic tantrums; to say more might rather spoil things, though.

I watched Johnson's film as I was in the middle of Stephen King's weighty 11/22/63, a book that ran out of steam for me long before the actual end, though it did provide some nice counterpoint to the ways in which Looper handles the mechanics of time travel. Johnson is more interested than King in teasing out some of the very specific consequences of the phenomenon, many of which he addresses in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's narration, though that voice-over also gives us a critical window into the character's thinking since he's otherwise a fairly laconic presence. Where King is concerned to re-create and explain a very specific part of the world from 1958-1963, Johnson leaves many of his details intriguingly unexplained -- the paraphernalia extending from the fuel tanks of cars, for instance -- while nonetheless giving us a precise sense of the dystopian turn of the earth (or at least Kansas) circa 2044.

Johnson is a terrifically confident filmmaker, whether it's in his visual approach -- the camera that travels with Gordon-Levitt in the early going as his character becomes embroiled in a hellish routine of killings, nightclubs and drugs -- or his shifting of tone from the caffeinated initial phase to the more bucolic central section, having the faith in his own storytelling skills to tamp down the rhythm and send the narrative in a more reflective direction. He's also quite clearly having an awful lot of fun with the genre aspects of his film, and particularly with the casting; Bruce Willis's character comes across as a kind of distillation of Willis characters past, all action and few words, to the point that I wondered for a while if Johnson would grant the man any lines at all, while Jeff Daniels looks like he's having an absolute blast as a Svengali-esque dean of criminal enterprise, attempting to lull his charges with his rolling cadences.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States