TORONTO: ‘Looper’ offers strong action … but just a piece

Looper
That parable about the blind and the elephant quickly comes to mind at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Toronto_voteWith hundreds upon hundreds of films onscreen, not to mention conferences, chats, live reads and meet-and-greets, few festival-goers will legitimately be able to claim at fest’s end they really saw more than a trunk or a toe. Yet, when all is said and done, close to all will tender an opinion on the entire elephant.

Even the media, which will somewhat coalesce around a tidy group of pics, still figures to splinter in terms of whether they see films X, Y or Z, let alone their opinions of said films.

That makes Opening Night something of a rare treat, in that its focus in a single film — this year, Rian Johnson’s “Looper” — will drive all the yay or nay opinion toward a single animal, whether people saw it Thursday or earlier in preview press screenings.

Initial reaction tilted toward the positive for the largely crackerjack pic that, for me, evoked a positive combo of “Inception,” “Terminator” and “Logan’s Run.” (Peter Debruge reviews it for Variety here.) I despaired at one point that all the dots would connect (or that I’d be able to connect all the dots), but the film comes together and finishes strong, with particular thanks to the mother-son combo of Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon. The biggest quibble some seemed to have was less with any plot issues than with the why-bother attempt to alter Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s appearance to make him seem more like … well, a star he just is never going to look like. Forgivable, that.

At the same time, there seemed to be resistance to giving the film a push into Oscar-caliber territory. “Inception” this won’t be, despite the repeat presence of Gordon-Levitt.

Nevertheless, on the soon-to-multiply list of Toronto films you can wholeheartedly recommend, “Looper” gets two tusks up.

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