Tag Archives: make-up

Looper: Fun for a while, but fails to come full circle

courtesy of whatculture.com
courtesy of whatculture.com

So, Looper arrived in SA with a time delay of about 4 months. Time travel, it seems, is not an exact science and it took distributors a while to send this picture through time to Africa. Luckily the film makes up for the wait and shows that while inexact, time travel can still be freakin cool if done right.

Looper opens in Kansas 2044 and a summary, no-apologies gunshot to the chest. This film doesn’t faff around and gets straight into it. And for the first act it’s wonderful to watch as director Rian Johnson mixes exposition in a  fascinating future world with arresting cruelty and style. It really has a marvelous rhythm and is huge fun.

We have looper by profession, Joe, holding our hand and guiding us through this universe with a noirish sensibility. So Johnson first did high-school noir, and now follows it up with future-noir. The man likes it dark. Joe is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who teams up again with pal Johnson and does a very good job in one of the four big top movies he had out this year. He’s basically playing Bruce Willis here, as the two actors play the same character at different stages in time, and it’s great to see how JGL embodies the action veteran. His make-up for the part is awesome too and a true accomplishment by the make-up artists.

“I made a nose piece, an upper lip and lower lip, a vacuum foam plastic piece to pull back Joe’s (Gordon-Levitt’s) ears, a small hairpiece on the eyebrows to change Joe’s eyebrows and contact lenses to change Joe’s eye color,” artist Kazu Tsuji told MTV.com. That’s a lot of work, right, and unusual. Most people would’ve just said they are the same person and that’s all there is to it, okay? Gawd!

Anyway, I won’t explain all the minutiae of the central conceit here, it’s more fun learning as you go along. But what it comes down to is that young Joe has to kill his older self from the future, who’s conveniently sent back to him by his own employers (sort of, I think). But future-Joe, that’s Bruce (try to keep up), is wise to what’s coming and manages to escape.

It’s at this point that, unfortunately the movie slowly starts losing me. For a short while longer it’s fun and exhibits some sweet humour too. And then it falls apart. And it’s not Emily Blunt’s fault for once. I actually liked her tough girl on the range. It’s her kid that stretches suspension of disbelief to its limits. In an acknowledging nod to the great Terminator 2 (Blunt’s character is even called Sarah), we again have a child whose life is in danger from someone sent back from the future due to what he may do in his assailant’s time. It’s a little silly at this point, and the kid is also too intelligent and intolerably cutesy for my taste, clashing with the tone of the movie. It’s not just the little twerp, though, as the earlier balanced touch in action scenes is dispensed with in favour of a crude, heavy-handed shoot-em-up. Meh.

By the end I’ve kinda stopped caring all that much. And thank goodness, because the ending doesn’t really make that much sense to me. You can mind-fuck me all you want, but I’m not gonna fake an orgasm just because you think you’re being confusing and that’s enough. Plus, if they are saying what I think they’re saying, it ultimately turns into Back to the Future but crossing over into the dark side… hmmm. No thanks. (Actually, come to think of it, they’re not saying what I thought they were saying… but the implication is there, the implication dammit…)

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The Wachowski’s offer us happy pills once more

A few nights ago Cloud Atlas blew my mind into smithereens as multitudinous as the stars. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts.

All I know is that, yes it may be a bit messy at times, but it’s a beautiful, glorious mess that you have to lose yourself in. I had this immense, exultant rush after seeing it, like I was on drugs. It’s a bold, ballsy drug by Tom and Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, spanning six time periods from 1849 through to Neo Seoul, 2144 and further to 106 winters after “The Fall”. The Wachowski’s took care of the future periods while Tykwer directed the classical parts.

The source material, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, deserves a lot of credit as the ideas of interconnectedness and fate are all his. That’s one half of the puzzle. But committing it to the screen, the attempt alone and then the feat of executing it so well, deserves equal praise if not more. Because the different stories (up to a point) don’t feel all that original, but the sheer scope of it and how it all fits together, along with the actors’ performances, superb make-up and beautiful awe-inspiring visuals, really bring it home. It takes this monumental idea about life, everything, the eternal narrative of humankind, and gives it a physical form. That’s the big achievement, being able to present this idea the way they’ve done.

Watching Cloud Atlas recalled another divisive pop culture phenomenon of the previous decade. Cloud Atlas feels like the movie the creators of Lost would’ve made in their prime. And much like Lost, some of the storylines/flashbacks don’t completely hold up, but the overall result (at least for a lot of seasons where Lost is concerned) is still incredibly satisfying.

Certainly everything does not hold up. For example, I could’ve done without seeing Hugo Weaving as a burly nurse or Halle Berry running around San Francisco as a jive journalist on the trace of something big. And Tom Hanks’ cockney gangster will go down as one of the most ridiculous career choices of his or any of his peers’ career. But then that error is brief, thankfully, and Hanks more than makes up for it in two other powerful performances as the deceitful, unsavoury Doctor Goose and tribesman of the future, Zachry. Each actor plays on average about five or six characters, after all, so they can afford the odd slip-up.

Hanks’ gangster Dermot Hoggins can also be forgiven, because his hot-headedness triggers one of the more unusual plot strands for a film where almost nothing seems out of place. Jim Broadbent is Timothy Cavendish, the publisher of Hoggins’ autobiography. And once the book turns out to be a hit, Hoggins sends his cronies to collect more money that he thinks he’s now owed. This sends Cavendish fleeing into the arms of his brother who, after having had enough of bailing him out, tricks him into booking into an old age home. Here begins a humorous jailbreak plot involving Cavendish and a few other geriatric “inmates” that is completely incongruous in its comedy and levity, but which just works remarkably well. Broadbent is excellent, his face wrung constantly into a crazed look of confusion and dismay. The actor then also balances out this foolish role by turning out a solid performance as the cruel composer Vyvyan Ayrs to boot.

Other stand-outs are Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae and James D’Arcy, who put in great performances all over but especially in the Neo Seoul storyline, another one of the best with some terrific action packed in.

So, it moves quickly and it can be confusing – they even invented a new dialect for the future which is at times quite hard to follow but which should also be saluted – but what ties it all together is the unifying theme of freedom. The movie depicts how our striving for liberty never lessens as new obstacles appear and old ones re-emerge. And simultaneously the film (and book, I suppose) frees up its characters in space and time by letting all the stories flow into each other. Cuts between scenes based in different time-periods are made frequently and flippantly to blur their distinctions. This feels like several movies, but the directors force us to view it as one which just happens to be told over a vast expanse of time. On a whole new cinematic level, space and time are illusions that limit storytelling no more. It might not be your bag of chips, but if you go in for that kind of thing, it’ll free your mind for a little while…

Plus it’s got Hugh Grant looking like this.