Cinema is an incredible medium, one that has the power to transport audiences to entirely new worlds and tell stories that could not be told in our own. Science fiction in particular is a great vehicle for this, using make-up, special and practical effects, and exciting futuristic concepts to challenge our perception of reality and possibility.
I still remember seeing a five year old child Revenge of the Sith in theaters and left speechless by the duel over Mustafar. Or watch the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe when I was eight and wonder how the filmmakers made Iron Man fly.
Modern cinema has an incredible number of tools to make audiences believe in things that could never be real. But rarely can you find a film that not only creates a living, breathing world for the audience to disappear into, but also uses that world to tell a human story that makes you reflect on your own life.
The ASAP Trophies is a celebration of the best sci-fi movies streaming right now. Recommended and written by Reverse readers.
looper is a 2012 time travel science fiction film written and directed by Rian Johnson. After the success of the indie breakout Brick, Johnson continued his collaboration with actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, while transporting the actor in a futuristic thriller. The film is set in the year 2044, in a vision of Kansas City plagued by poverty, crime, and telekinesis. Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, who works for the criminal syndicates of the even more futuristic 2074.
It is extremely difficult for these syndicates to dispose of the bodies of their victims, so they use time travel to send them back to Joe’s present, where he and other men called loopers execute the targets and destroy the evidence. Joe’s life is plagued by partying and drugs, with his payments set aside for a planned move to France. Then he gets his final target: Himself, 30 years from his present.
Joe is a selfish and arrogant man. It’s only when he sees where his current path leads (embodied by his future self, played by Bruce Willis) that he realizes that some things are more important than his own pleasure. He goes from selling his friend to dedicating himself to protecting a child. He’s literally fighting himself as Willis’ old Joe tracks down the kid to keep him from becoming a crime lord who murders Joe’s future wife.
looper discusses the notions of destiny and fulfillment and teaches us that we are masters of our character and our story. This is what sci-fi cinema should be: a gripping story that engages audiences while encouraging us to look within ourselves and the world around us. This is the film that made me want to become a filmmaker. After seeing it, I so needed to bring to life stories and worlds that people could relate to.
Thematic aside, the film features an excellent ensemble cast. Gordon-Levitt does an underrated job playing a young Bruce Willis, mimicking his facial ticks and physical movements without his performance becoming a parody. Willis sells us as the bitter Old Joe, full of rage and willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. The film also features excellent performances from seven-year-old Paul Dano, Emily Blunt, Noah Segan and Pierce Gagnon.
One of the nice things about looper it’s that to all the questions he asks and to all the philosophical notions he ponders, he doesn’t provide many concrete answers. That’s how life often is: we don’t get enough information to make a decision, but we have to make one anyway. Joe and Old Joe both face this dilemma, and the audience is stuck trying to decide who is right as they face off.
We can never really know if we’re doing the right thing, but what looper teaches us is that we, as human beings, have the ability to change who we are and maintain control of our own narrative, even if that means sacrificing it for the good of others. It’s a great lesson for modern audiences, and it’s even better when presented as an entertaining sci-fi action thriller.
looper is streaming on Netflix.