The Expendables 2 Review
Aug 2012 21

**This is the first review from returning contributor, Kaz. Over the next few paragraphs, gives you the skinny on The Expendables 2. If you want to let us know what you think about the film, please leave a comment below. Welcome aboard, Kaz!**

Remember the 80’s? Remember the likes of Commando, First Blood, Rambo, Bloodsport, Die Hard etc etc? These were the super hero movies of their time. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, these guys, they were the heroes of the big screen. Yes, acting ability was incredibly limited, but, if a studio wanted a big box office smash, one of the above (bar Van Damme, who dropped into b-movie mediocrity after Universal Soldier) had to be on the billing. The films were cheesy nonsense, one man against an army who couldn’t hit a mountain if it was sitting right in front of them, where the heroes could take cover behind a paper bag and bullets would just be absorbed into them, where every time a hero was shot, it was just a flesh wound.

Well, those days are now back it seems, and I’m not sure how to take it. Did I enjoy the movie? Hell yes, it is a testosterone filled action extravaganza! But it is also a little silly. Let’s get the bad bits out of the way first. One, Dolph Lundgren, you are not funny, in fact, Sylvester Stallone is made to look like Steve Carell in comparison. Some of the blood is so obviously CGI, it’s as if they got to the editing room, thought, hey, the blood packs just didn’t shout ‘WOW!’ enough, so lets paint some more! It looks fake, it is fake and takes away a tiny bit from the action. The acting, yes, it is horrid, I cringed at many a line. The story? What story, it is such a simple revenge and save the world plot that spending too much time pondering the holes, nay, the epic craters in it would probably take you until the end of time.

DVD Review: Detention
Sep 2012 09

***Joseph Kahn‘s self-financed Detention never got a theatrical release in the UK, and had an extremely limited run in theatres in its native US. With this in mind, it’s clear that the distributors acquired the movie with one eye on the DVD market, which makes it somewhat fitting that I finally caught up with it on that scion of the physical media formats: DVD.***

Detention is a film for teenagers. It’s so specifically aimed at teenagers that, with its constant quick-cutting, ADD cultural references to YouTube, text messages, Slasher Flicks and John Hughes, it could only be more ‘teen’ if it was composed entirely of text speak. Preferably in 140 characters or less.

So modern, they’ve even got one of those portable phone things!

It’s got a plot, but since that doesn’t even begin to encapsulate the film, it’s barely worth outlining… don’t worry, I will anyway. Essentially, a movie-inspired serial killer called Cinderhella is stalking the halls of a high school populated by the kind of pop-culture savvy, wise cracking, clique-defining kids that could only exist in this kind of film. It culminates in a Saturday detention organised by the Principle, unintentionally trapping them with their own hunter… Plot-wise… that’s about it. Since so much of the running time is taken up with trying to reach ‘the kids’ with their cultural touchstones, the story is, at best, secondary.

Josh Hutcherson watching where he’s looking

The film stars Josh Hutcherson, flush from his recent mainstream attention-garnering role in The Hunger Games (despite a lengthy filmography before that), and he also produces it. Hutcherson and his up-and-coming cohorts throw themselves enthusiastically into their various smartass roles. Joseph Kahn, the director and co-writer, is best known as a prodigiously successful music video director. His quick-cutting, bubblegum, MTV-friendly style is perfectly showcased in, and suited to, this film. His only prior full-length effort, 2004’s Torque, was an action film best described as The Fast and the Furious but more over the top (yes, that’s possible!).

Joseph Kahn: busy weaving cinematic dreams.

The Teen Tenner is an elusive beast to ensnare (often quality is not deciding factor in a film’s success), but when a film so sets its stall out to court that most fickle of demographics that its ratio of pop culture reference to actual character-building, story-defining content is at least 5:1, you know they’re playing a high-stakes game…

And you know what? It sort of works.

The constant quick-cutting editing, the bombardment of music cues, the bright colours, fourth-wall demolishing dialogue and heightened acting could well attract the kind of teen who spends hours watching MTV whilst using Facebook on their iPhones. It’s hard to get bored watching this film, even if it is hard to actually feel anything. When a character refers to another as “more concept than reality”, you know that this tightrope will be a hard one to walk, but there are laughs in there, and real ingenuity in the visual effects. The self-consciousness of the dialogue mirrors that of the most insecure and image-cognisant teen, and, while entertaining, makes it hard to believe them as real people, even within this hyper-reality.

Yes. This is Cinderhella. Cool, huh kids?

Detention is trying something different. It’s smarter than Not Another Teen Movie. But by virtue of the fact that it’s written and made by adult men, it also comes across like an ageing hippy guidance counsellor type trying to relate to the kids on their own level by talking about Twitter and Justin Bieber. Ultimately, characters who are believable and relatable, rather than trendily postmodern, and story lines that are coherent and engrossing, as opposed to inconsequential and disposable, will always resonate better with people on the whole. As interesting and unique as Detention is, even its much-maligned target demographic likes to feel something once in a while when watching a film.

A mess, but a unique and audacious one.

6.5/10

TA

Prepare to be Judged! (Dredd 3D Review)
Sep 2012 19

 

Originally, I was going to avoid this. The trailers didn’t really tickle my fancy and Karl Urban is a bit hit and miss (Doom being a prime example). What Stallone did to the character in the previous, abomination of an adaptation (YOU NEVER TAKE OFF THE HELMET!!) also put me, and the legions of fanboys off.

The 2000AD comic stories were, and still are, different to the mainstream Marvel & DC fare. They are much darker, more sinister, and with more realism entwined in its stories than what we have come to expect from other stables. The first movie took some great elements from the 2000AD universe (the Angel Gang, ABC Warriors) and made them tame: disappointing.

Then there is the current trend of making movies 12A friendly with The Hunger Games being the most recent of casualties. So when Dredd was first announced I wasn’t buying it.

But then I started hearing good things.

Critic reviews were coming back as being very positive. Heck, on Rotten Tomatoes, at the time of deliberating on whether I should go see it or not, the rating was 90%! The certificate was not 12A but a full on 18. I also heard that the helmet does NOT come off! So I shed my preconceptions, donned the spouse on the arm, and bravely ventured forth to the eXtreme(!) screen at Vue Westfields.

You are first introduced to the action in a no holds barred chase through Mega City One. The city is shown in daylight, which may shock some who are used to cities of the future caked in never ending darkness (Blade Runner, the first Judge Dredd movie are just two examples). This expansive view helps to portray the vastness of the city using the host South African locations as fantastic backdrops. The mega towers in the city are just that: mega! These futuristic megaliths tower over the sprawling city below. These are self contained towns, if you like, rather than residential blocks and blend in to the Durban/Cape Town layouts perfectly. South Africa is now a hotbed of movie activity, and it should be welcomed if they can play host to movies like this and the fabulous District 9.

 That initial chase sets you up well for the rest of the movie. It’s a throwback to all of those 80’s no holds barred action movies like Robocop, in fact the opening scene was so reminiscent of Murphy’s exploits, and others of its ilk that I felt like I was right back there, hairstyles and shoulder pads aside. During the chase you are introduced to a form of drug called Slo-Mo. When users take this substance their brain interprets everything much more slowly, this is shown by the film employing slow motion. It reminded me of ‘Bullet-Time’ in the Max Payne games and the method of filming is used several times to great effect throughout the running time.

It’s immediately obvious that this movie will not go on without a brutal bang or two. The violence is ongoing throughout and at some points even I found it difficult to watch (and hear!). Let me tell you now, if you ever wondered what a bullet through the mouth would look like in slow motion, this is the film for you, because it shows you, about a million times.

The gist of the plot surrounds the Peach Tree tower and its chief inhabitant, Ma-Ma, played by Lena Headey. A one time hooker who was scarred by her pimp and decided to take revenge in a very Lorena Bobbit manner. She then proceeded to take over the tower and build a drug empire, ruthlessly.

As an antagonist, Lena Headey comes off ok, yes she does evil things but there was always the impression that once Dredd got to her, it would be a non-entity of an encounter, ending with a bullet through the mouth……………….in slow motion. To counter her lack of presence, Dredd (and his psychic sidekick Judge Anderson played by the lovely Olivia Thirlby) are sent hordes of tower residents to take on. If you have stopped there, and are thinking: ‘Wait, isn’t this just like The Raid?’ You’d be right, but the guys in The Raid didn’t have a Lawgiver did they!?! No they bloody well didn’t.

 Thirlby plays the Anderson character very well and she grows the character from the timid introduction into a fully fledged Judge by the end; her psychic powers growing with her as the chaos surrounds her and Dredd.

How about Karl Urban? Has he done the character justice? Does he get past the considerable handicap of only being able to use his chin to act? I’d have to give that a resounding yes! Dredd is not really a hero, he is a fascist, a thug, a bully, who just happens to be on our side. Urban pulls this off really well and I’d welcome him back with open arms if a sequel gets made.

One of the great things about this particular Dredd story is that it didn’t try to give us an Epic, it wasn’t an end of the world type scenario. They took a normal day, a normal routine check up and turned it into a movie. Ok, so the normal working day for Judge Dredd is most likely more eventful for him than us, but it worked. It was a great way to reboot the franchise on the big screen. Karl’s stoic performance leads well to some of the chuckle inducing one-liners he is given, which helps to add some welcome levity. It’s another good example of how script-writing and story writing can differ. A story can be incredibly basic but still succeed with a good screen writing, The Avengers is a case in point, and I believe Dredd is another.

With Dredd now fixed, I’m aching to see what the same team could do with a Dark Judges story arc. I think every Judge Dredd fan on the planet is just aching to see the Dark Judges on the big screen; especially Judge Death! This would be a wet dream come true for me! …Well, uhm, enough about my fantasies… Wonder Woman *cough*.

As usual, I don’t like to give too much away in my reviews, as it will spoil the movie, so I won’t ramble on-besides there isn’t much to the plot, it’s really just a staging ground for an endless run of violence Dredd style, and a reintroduction nay, a reminder to what Judge Dredd is……………..The Law!

Solid 8.5/10 from me.

 

KAZI

Taken 2 Review
Oct 2012 10

Taken was something of a surprise hit, way back in 2008. Liam Neeson, that bona fide, middle-aged, thesp, an action hero? It had to be seen to be believed. Telling the story of a father using his own particular set of skills learned as a CIA operative killing half of Paris to find his kidnapped daughter, rocketed Liam
Neeson into the mainstream consciousness as an unlikely action hero.

Although it had an ending with plenty of closure, the box office return on the relatively small
budget virtually guaranteed a return to the world of Bryan Mills and his
unique, but brutally effective, brand of finding people.

Now how do you top Taken? Well, without wanting to spoil it (it is in
the trailer), you kidnap the father and mother instead! This leaves Maggie Grace as Bryan Mills’ daughter in the unenviable situation of having to help save them.

Cue phone calls to his daughter who manages to evade capture on the mean and exotic streets of Istanbul, Turkey. He later deposits his daughter at the US Embassy for safe keeping (after giving her a lesson in high-speed evasion in a taxi, natch).

This is probably a movie best suited to home viewing. I’d probably watch it on DVD as I did with the first film. It is a popcorn movie – disposable but fun fodder from
which drinking games can (and will) be created. I can see it now: drink a finger of
alcohol when you hear Liam Neeson say ‘Listen to me very carefully…’, do a shot when he snaps someone’s neck, down an entire bottle of vodka when he encounters a situation where his mysteriously thorough and all-encompassing CIA training can’t help him (spoiler: that’s never, then).

Neck snapping: Bryan Mills, up to his old tricks

The film is peppered with some unintentionally hilarious moments, despite the po-faced nature of the story. Mostly to do with Liam’s delivery of his lines and how they immediately transmit to the audience that something bad is going to
happen.

Liam Neeson carries on as he did before – the overprotective father who
just wants to make sure his family is safe. Famke Janssen has a relatively
thankless role as the kidnapped ex-wife, bound, gagged, and dragged
all over the place. Maggie Grace steps up from the kidnapped daughter

Kim to rescuer. The villains though, are largely ineffective. Merely there to present
Bryan with some vague form of resistance when walking from one door to another.

Liam Neeson has gone on record as saying that there really is no way to do a third Taken movie.
Contrary to this, there are reports that one is being plotted, possible sans Neeson. The first Taken was a lightning in a bottle situation, this struggles to repeat the trick and benefits hugely from the first. Can they do it for a third time? It remains to be seen…

SM

Arrow Review
Oct 2012 18

The recent success of the Marvel comic movies has made Hollywood and the Networks desperate to sign the next hot comic book property. I would never have thought the ‘Green Arrow’ get his own TV series but here it is!

They have cast a relatively unknown Stephen Amell playing Oliver Queen our hero the Green Arrow. The story starts with Oliver on an island called Purgatory which we find he has been stranded on for five years. He looks like Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away’ with a Green Hood for the first few minutes. During these minutes we get a glimpse of his Parkour abilities as he race to alert a near by Fishing boat as to his presence.

Once back in civilisation the story becomes a reasonably predictable revenge story with the Arrow taking on those that have taken advantage of his home town. There is more too it than that but I don’t want to spoil the plot. They have cleverly not given everything away about what happened to Oliver on the island but use flashbacks to give us glimpses of the event that changes his life forever.

Some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy one line in particular whispered by Oliver to his kid sister Thea played by Willa Holland on his return is a shocker: ‘You were with me the whole time’. VoiceOver is used by the producers to explain what is going on in the Arrows mind. This for me is not hugely effective as Stephen Amell is a little wooden, not on the scale of Keanu Reeves but close. He is your classic blue-eyed blonde haired boy, and luckily for him there was clearly a Fitness First gym on Purgatory as he is ripped.

It all feels very familiar, not always a bad thing as sometimes you want to sit comfortably on the sofa and turn your brain off and watch stupidly good-looking people tell you a story. It draws on its comic book heritage and pulls from the likes of Batman and Superman for inspiration in developing the leads darker brooding character.
It reminds me a lot of Smallville, the possible love interest is called Laurel Lance and is an investigative lawyer sounds familiar doesn’t it. This is not surprising as it is produced for the CW the American channel which was responsible for Smallville.

I don’t want to give away the plot but rest assured they have built-in a way to keep this story running for as long as they need it to.

Arrow is a ripping yarn which won’t tax the brain. I enjoyed the first episode and I want to find out more about the mysterious island of purgatory and what happened to him there.

Arrow is on Sky One HD 22nd October at 9pm.

7/10

TW

Oct 2012 30

Girls is a new HBO comedy series being shown on Sky Atlantic and I absolutely love it.

The Girls

“Why?” you might ask.

(For the sake of this I am going to imagine you definitely did ask cos otherwise the rest of this is going to be weird.)

I love it because it is real. It is blisteringly, cringe inducing, get up and walk around the room, blush while you are watching, honest.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so happy to admit this but I can really relate to this show. Really a lot. It is funny because I have had similar conversations, with similar women, in similar settings, discussing similar boys whilst  worrying about similar stuff.

When I first read Bridget Jones’s Diary, back in 1996, I didn’t think she was a disastrous flake.  I was 21, had just finished university and was trying to get a job and a flat in London. In my opinion Bridget Jones had it all.

She was thinner than me, she went out a lot with her friends, she smoked, she had a flat, a job and wasn’t a virgin. “Isn’t Bridget a hopeless nightmare?” people would say to me when they noticed what I was reading. I would of course make some kind of facial gesture to try to show I agreed but inside I was thinking “Bridget isn’t’ hopeless! She’s everything I want to be!” Bridget Jones’s Diary was as aspirational guide to a chic London lifestyle that I wanted.

Now, 16 years later, I finally feel the appalled pitying affection that I was meant to feel about Bridget for  the lead in Girls, Hannah.

Hannah Horvath wants to be a writer. She looks normal – she’s neither fat nor thin, ugly nor beautiful. She likes to think she is streetwise, witty and cool but in actual fact she is a super naive, socially awkward girl in her early twenties who relies on an allowance from her parents every month, while she works an unpaid internship. An internship that she accidentally gets herself fired from when she asks for a salary.

In the first three episodes we see Hannah, unfortunately, having a lot of sex with her lover, Adam who is aloof and noncommittal about their relationship. There is no chemistry between Adam and Hannah. Their time together is clumsy, uncomfortable and embarrassing. It is what life is actually like.

The only female character in Girls that I don’t like is the Jessa, the British flatmate who is effortlessly cool, (more so than me at 21 and 37,) and is therefore intimidating, however my age now allows me to admit that.

Jessa

I cannot wait to watch the next episode though I know I will be viewing from behind a cushion, or through a series of facepalms.

Girls is broadcast on Monday evenings at 10pm on Sky Atlantic.

Seven Psychopaths Review
Dec 2012 09

Quentin Tarantino has a lot to answer for. In his wake has come a slew of verbose, pop-culture referencing crime flicks, trash-aesthetic exploitations films, and a dystopian cornucopia of film student imitators. Seven Psychopaths, writer-director Martin McDonagh’s second film, will inevitably be grouped with said postmodern post-Tarantino crime movies, but it deserves more than that.

Describing the film’s plot is something of an exercise in futility, but here goes: struggling screenwriter Marty (Colin Farrell) reluctantly accepts input on his abortive screenplay, Seven Psychopaths, from his seemingly-unhinged dognapping friend, Billy (Sam Rockwell). Throw into the mix Christopher Walken’s character, Hans, as Billy’s partner-in-crime, and psychotic gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a plan that gradually unravels, and a whole lot of violence, and you have a difficult plot to summarise.

Eccentric clothes? Check. Self-aware dialogue? Check. Now all we need is some violence… Oh, there it is!

The dark sense of humour McDonagh exhibited with In Bruges is evident throughout here, with violent punchlines to profane jokes. Like Tarantino’s movies, McDonagh’s films seem to inhabit a similar but different world to ours, that owes as much influence to the movies as it does to real life. Just like most films about writers, this film is ultimately about the process of writing, as Colin Farrell’s character struggles with writer’s block, and writer’s boozing. With moments that blur the line between Marty’s screenplay and the reality of the film itself, some might find the narrative too confusing or obscure for their tastes, but ultimately the film’s internal logic holds true.

Colin Farrell is as effective as he was in In Bruges, showing the same instinctive feel for McDonagh’s dialogue, and comic acting that often mark out his best performances. The rest of the cast are uniformly excellent, never better exemplified than in Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken’s elliptical, violence-free Western-style standoff in a hospital waiting room. However, the film itself is stolen right out from under the noses of everyone else by Sam Rockwell. His gleeful, eccentric performance gives the film its energy, and continues his fine career.

Woody Harrelson is clearly having a ball as the gangster Charlie. Dude’s got a scorpion tattooed on his neck.

This film is violent. At times, distractingly so, with its graphic nature potentially unsettling even those who are familiar with his prior work. Catholic themes of crime and punishment pervade throughout, also something McDonagh fans will be well-versed in, but there is a streak of violence against women that could potentially leave a nasty taste in the mouth. Although women are shown perpetrating violence themselves, and violence against women is repeatedly condemned by characters, actions speak louder than words. Do I think Martin McDonagh is sexist? No. Did I find some moments troubling? Yes. But I think that is ultimately the point with this story, slight as it is. Your tolerance for violence and appreciation of film references will be key to your overall enjoyment of the film, and it is stimulating to see such a unique voice able to get his work released with some A-list stars. See it, you need to have an opinion on this.

8/10

TA

Jan 2013 28

Poster

American filmmaker David Gelb’s first feature length documentary is an educational insight into the skill and discipline of sushi preparation, a craft that not many of us are familiar with in the west. In Japan, 86 year old sushi chef Jiro Ono is a culinary legend, a man so devoted and focused on his work who has been seeking perfection in his craft for over 70 years. He runs a small immaculate 10 seater restaurant called Sukiyabashi Jiro in the Ginza district of Tokyo which is reputed to make the best Sushi in the world earning him three Michelin stars.

Jiro is a workaholic and takes the utmost care and precision with preparing the sushi before serving and insists his trainee chefs undertake a tough ten year apprenticeship under his supervision. He is a strict perfectionist but also works in a state of calmness which is fascinating to watch. His two sons who are almost as good as Jiro and have worked in the restaurant virtually all their lives are frustrated with their father’s lack of desire to retire, thus the youngest son has no choice but to open another Sushi restaurant in the fashionable area of Roppongi. However Jiro trusts both his sons to source the best quality fish daily from the local fish market and he samples all the sushi before serving every day until it tastes exactly right.

This is an informative piece of filmmaking and one cannot help but feel that you have learnt something by watching this well executed and enlightening documentary. The score mostly comprising of compositions by Philip Glass adds a sophisticated tone.

Even if you’re not into eating fish at all or, like many, morally concerned about the long term effects of the amount of overfishing in the ocean due to mass sushi and fish consumption globally, Gelb’s documentary is essentially an accolade to a man you cannot help but admire, a man who has come from nothing and by sheer hard work, by loving and devoting his life to his craft has become very successful is nothing short of inspiring.

Sara Seaton

Movie Round-Up
Feb 2013 03

It has been a long break for contributing to the site due to Christmas and some side projects. All that aside I have still been watching a lot of movies!

Here is a quick round up of what I have been watching and my brief thoughts:

Dredd

I hadn’t really planned on watching this but found myself home alone and wanting to watch and Action Movie and had a quick scan on the ‘On Demand’ section on my Sky HD box and there is was.  ‘Dredd’ is the latest re-visioning of the 2012AD comics character Judge Dredd, the previous film was a slightly more light hearted affair staring Sylvester Stallone.  The 2012 version Stars Karl Urban as our lead and Olivia Thrilby as his new psychic partner.  It is a fast paced violent affair which it doesn’t apologies for and nor should it.  It is a very tightly put together action film which doesn’t hang around too long and ticks all the comic book fan boxes.  My only issue with it is the casting of Karl Urban who really isn’t that physically intimidating.

7/10

Jango Unchained

I always look forward to new Tarantino films, no one puts all the pieces together with as much style and liberal amounts of cool like he does.  Jango delivers everything you would expect from a QT movie, Violence, threat of violence, great dialogue and an amazing sound track. The familiarity with his product may be why I didn’t like it as much as I hoped I would. It is similar to my reaction to the iPhone 5 it looks like an iPhone and it does everything my old one did which I liked but where is the innovation?? One of my favourite QT films was Jackie Brown which was a step away from the norm and shooting someone else’s story.  I can’t help feeling he should start looking for a writing partner or another great book for his next project.  Jango is still leaps and bounds above a lot of the trash that gets released these days.

8/10

Argo

Ben Affleck just gets better and better in my opinion.  He has had a few miss steps as and actor but I think he has potential to one of the truly great American directors and reminds me a great deal of Clint Eastwood.  Argo is a masterpiece in story telling, the cast is strong but none of the actors over cook their parts allowing the story which is a great one to play out on screen.  I don’t want to spoil the film to much so I will keep this short, just go and see it.

9/10

Zero Dark Thirty

Dogged by controversy since its announcement Zero Dark Thirty (ZDT) is Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film and her second modern day war film.  The film follows one female CIA operatives crusade to locate and capture or kill Usama Bin Laden (UBL as he is referred to in the film).  The controversy stems from two main issues; 1. It hasn’t been long since the events took place, 2. The first third of the film features scenes of graphic torture and doesn’t apologies for it or really suggest that is was wrong. The torture as with most elements in a Kathryn Bigelow film is portrayed in as an authentic manner as possible, what I mean by this is it would have been out of place if the script had featured troops or the CIA questioning the techniques they were using.

These points out of the way I can start telling you what I thought of the film itself.  I thought Hurt Locker was an amazing piece of film making and it felt like one of the most realistic depictions of the conflict in the middle east.  My anticipation for Bigleow’s follow up was high, the buzz and the oscar tipping for ZDT has been phenomenal.
The cast is first class with faces you will recognise in nearly every role, some more recognisable for their work in television than cinema but still good actors.
All round this is a solid film but for me felt a little by the numbers and more of a dramatic reconstruction of events than a movie.  The by the numbers approach I’m sure is a nod at the sensitivity of the subject matter and the level of scrutiny it would receive on its release.

8/10

End of Watch

This is one of those films where the trailer doesn’t do a very good job at telling you what the film is about.  The trailer portrays the film as non-stop action film with the the two cops being chased through LA by Mexican drug cartels.  This is not what ‘End of Watch’ is really about, yes the end of the film does feature a chase but at really the film is about two cops and their friendship over the period of roughly a year.  Very violent in parts but it feels like one of the most genuine portrayals of life as LAPD since ‘Colors’.  I’m a big fan of the american TV series ‘Southland’ which is very similar to ‘End of Watch’ in that it is more about the relationships than the setting.   Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal have the some of the best on screen chemistry I have ever seen on film, truly great performances. This is the first film I have seen in a long time that left me wired and wide awake.
9/10
Mar 2013 09

This is one of those movies that I really wanted to see on the big screen, but alas, circumstances prevented me from doing so. It wasn’t helpful that my local cinema didn’t see fit to actually have it running for very long either. Which is a shame, as I have a feeling it was a similar story up and down the land, and a film like this deserves much better.

Time travel movies often have a nasty brain ache effect, with over complicated stories and plot holes so massive that one could quite easily fit an entire solar system through them. The really odd thing about Looper though, is that it does introduce both brain ache and plot holes, but you don’t really care.

Why? Because the story itself is brilliant. The acting is well above par. The script is well written. It’s very well paced. And there is a key plot point that is hidden so well from the trailers, it adds another dynamic to the whole piece that is so well implemented, you are left to forgive the complexity of time travel and the holes in the story, you are left asking serious questions of yourself.

The premise sold to the audience in the trailer is that this is going to be a typical trace the contact from the future, team up and take on the bad guys type story, formulaic and seen before in many different guises. What it actually delivers is a journey of emotions. At first you let it take you on the formulaic journey, waiting for that moment for Bruce Willis to appear for the story to actually start. You soon realise that there is something much more to this piece.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s stature is growing, and it is he that takes centre stage in this movie, not Bruce Willis. The trailer actually sets things up quite well, it gives you the brief of what is happening. The viewer is presented with a world in decline, the year is 2044 and time travel, well, let’s allow Joseph Gordon-Levitt to tell us:

“Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been. It will be instantly outlawed, used only in secret by only the largest criminal organizations. It’s nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future… I’m told. Tagging techniques, whatnot. So when these criminal organizations in the future need someone gone, they use specialized assassins in our present called “Loopers.” And so, my employers in the future nab the target, they zap them back to me – their Looper. He appears, hands tied and head sacked, and I do the necessaries. Collect my silver. So the target has vanished from the future, and I’ve just disposed of a body that technically does not exist. Clean.”

And there you have it, the plot as it is presented. These ‘Loopers’ are named so for a reason, because of the illegal nature of Time Travel in the future, the employers from 2074 remove any trace of their involvement with the Loopers in the past that they close the loops. The way they do this is to send the older version of the Looper back in time to be taken out by their younger selves, it is what is referred to in the movie as ‘Closing your loop’. Should the Looper fail to close their loop when ordered to, all manner of nastiness occurs to ensure that the loop is forced close. This is demonstrated quite horrifically in the first third. It’s from this moment on that you realise that this is a serious film, it is going to ask you questions, you begin to ask yourself which side of the fence would you sit? And just as you relax and get your head around that question, much darker and sinister questions arise. For the good of the future, what would you sacrifice of yourself in the past?

It’s at this point the movie introduces the twist, a man of the future called the Rainmaker, a character shrouded in almost as much mystery as Kaiser Soze. This Rainmaker rules the roost in the future, a man who out of nowhere has taken over everything and is closing all of the loops. Joe (the young version) hears of this before he is presented with his next job, his very own loop closure. Bruce Willis appears but is not tied up and is not wearing a hood, the struggle results in Bruce Willis getting away and the chase begins, not only for young Joe to chase down his older self, but also the mob of the present chasing both Joe of the present and Joe of the future.

The life of older Joe is presented in flashbacks, we learn that future Joe became bad, until he met a woman who he fell in love with. From this moment he changed and they built a life together, he felt complete. That is until the Rainmaker’s goons arrive and kill his future love and take him prisoner to transport back in time to close the loop. At this point we learn the future is in danger, this Rainmaker is bad news and life is short of laughs. The future is scared. No-one knows who the Rainmaker is, or where he came from, that is until a minor clue falls into the hands of Bruce Willis.

There are three possible suspects for this Rainmaker of the future, and older Joe wants to take him out in the hope that the future would be restored and his wife will be saved, as well as life for everyone else. So, a noble cause you’d think right? Until you realise that the three suspect, in young Joe’s timeline, are just kids. And their innocence, when presented to you, the audience, is in full display. The decisions taken on from here are truly disturbing, and watching how things unfold is both captivating and incredibly uneasy. That question comes up again, to save the future, what would you sacrifice of yourself in the past? You not only watch these events happen, but it is so well done that you begin to ask yourself, what would you do? We find out why The Rainmaker is closing the loops, and you honestly, as you watch things unfold, do not know who to side with. It’s full of twists and turns, not only in story, but of ones own emotional turmoil trying to figure out what you would do yourself in this situation, all the way to the end. The climax of this movie in itself provides closure, but also questions. Was there another way? You play the movie back in your head several times and always come to the same conclusion, no. Or maybe…. It’s infuriating, but brilliant at the same time!

This is a sci-fi movie for grown ups, people who like to be challenged, and in some cases, perhaps changed by what they experience. This movie provides so many talking points, and I’ve tried to not spoil what is the key to the whole thing, because I want you to decide for yourself without me tainting it for you. If you didn’t catch this at the cinema, and are thinking about watching it now, stop thinking, start doing. This gets a solid 9 out of 10 from me.

Kaz