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Review: Looper

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Directed By: Rian Johnson

Often wildly preposterous as it leaps from sci-fi to horror and back again, Looper is still accessible thanks to an engaging plot, excellent chemistry between Gordon-Levitt and Willis, and gently futuristic costume design by Sharen Davis.

Davis (The Help, Django Unchained) strikes right at the heart of character personification. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as ‘looper’ Joe Simmons in a fitted leather jacket, white shirt and tie is flashy and full of himself. With the ignorance of youth, his look channels the 20th century as a rejection of the present (2042). Joe believes he can buy his way to happiness, yet emotional growth actually comes as he is forced to swap elegant slacks for dusty cotton pants; an ironic ascension from selfish to savoir.

Bruce Willis as Older Joesph transported from 2072 to 2042. Willis’ plain white t-shirt is a long established cinematic motif for aggressive masculinity.

Director Rian Johnson worked closely with Davis to create a future that is as fundamentally familiar and broken as our present. Elements of The Matrix, Children of Men, Blade Runner and even Johnson’s own The Brothers Bloom are tossed into a world that, while coherent, intentionally lacks stylistic direction. Gunmen strut in self-aware flowing black coats, while farm owner Sara (Emily Blunt) retreats from the city in a plaid shirt and cargo shorts. When both parties meet in the same room they appropriately appear to have crossed timelines.

Although visible within context, the costumes in Looper are not jarring. Only a trio of henchmen wearing wide brim hats in 2072 prompts us to question just how affected criminals in the far future might become. Davis makes little touches from this era come alive in a short space of time. Red buttons on black coats, disproportionally high stand collars – basically anything we can digest quickly in close up but nothing to take us away from the narrative. It seems that if anything clothes in the far future become more casual. Jeff Daniels’ guru gangster Abe ridicules young Joseph for choosing a neck tie in 2042. Why hold onto the past? Because with the collapse of law we create our own formality; even a drug addled killer, apparently possessing no moral fibre whatsoever desires some structure in his life.

Along with his fellow ‘loopers’, younger Joe (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt) channels a deliberately retrospective look of the 20th century. Interestingly though, the shirt and tie are not work attire – the implication being that certain formal elements of this era are now regarded as fashion.

Costume wise, Looper is not the new Inception. To be fair it never claims to be, and yet Jeffrey Kurland’s smart casual duds did set a benchmark in sci-fi cool. Looper succeeds by pretty much doing the opposite. Young Joseph’s razor-sharp nightclub attire may be enviable and imitable, but his persona at this point is nothing more than a hired gun. These are the clothes of a loser. Looper is more avant-garde and plot-wise, even more daring than Inception. It is a mishmash of futuristic conventions and clichés cobbled together as something we have never quite seen before.

Looper is released on 28th September.

Looper costume designer Sharen Davis reveals inspiration.

© 2012 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.