With three features under his belt, Rian Johnson is no new kid on the proverbial Hollywood block. When the director made an appearance in Miami at the Mandarin Oriental to talk about his latest film, Looper, he said he's been pouring himself into movies since he was a kid.
In high school, Johnson spent his time filming shorts with friends, "just because we wanted to do something on the weekend," he said.
Looper, also written by Johnson, started as a short. "It just sat in a drawer for about 10 years...That idea had always seemed really fertile to me," He said.
Fast forward a decade, and that once-overlooked idea has turned into Johnson's biggest film project to date, a multi-million dollar sci-fi action flick starring long time friend and actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The two became close when filming Johnson's first feature and breakthrough hit, Brick, which took home the Special Jury Prize for originality of Vision at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.
Looper, a time-travel saga, is set in the year 2042, as well as any time between then and 2072. Time travel has been invented, but only for the corrupt elitists of the new world. The story follows Joe, a gritty, young hit man from the future, whose dirty work starts to catch up with him in the most literal sense. An encounter with his future self, played by Bruce Willis, sets a series of difficult situations and choices in motion for him.
Every project of Johnson's is an indication of his storytelling ability, something he takes quite seriously. For Johnson, Looper isn't just another futuristic sci-fi movie; it's a means for amplifying human experiences.
"Yeah it's time travel, and it's older self, younger self, which is a really out there and impossible situation. But what it leads to is a young man sitting across from an old man looking at what he could become in the future and saying, 'I'm not going to turn into you, I don't have to become you,' and the old man looking at the younger man and saying, 'I see me in you and you're doing everything wrong, what are you doing?' And that's absolutely human and relatable," Johnson said.
Johnson dabbles in multiple genres that set a specific and unique tone for the film. It's a blend of sci-fi grounded in reality, noir (a staple in his earlier films), American Western, and a bit of horror to round it all out.
The film also has strong performances by Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, and Noah Segan. Johnson's vision couples characters struggling with dystopian morals and the not so black-and-white stands they have to make.
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Gordon-Levitt spoke fondly of working with Johnson on the film, "He makes movies that are sincere and intriguing and unpredictable and fun and that's what I want....You can tell when somebody's making a movie for the money and you can tell when somebody's making a movie because they love movies."
Emotionally charged as it is visually stunning, Looper is on its way to being recognized as a future classic amidst sci-fi films like Blade Runner, Alien and The Fifth Element.
The action thriller opens in theaters nationwide Friday, September 28.