The Congress

This movie starts off on a fairly standard note, there is little in the first part of the movie to suggest how Ari Folman’s (Waltz with Bashir, 2008) direction would go. The movie is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem using Folman’s screenplay.

The movie starts in the family home of a gracefully aging movie star being lectured to by her agent, Al, (Harvey Keitel, The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014). She has been essentially side-lined by the industry because of how hard she is to work with, however the studio have an offer for her. Against this background we learn she has two children, both mid to late teens and one of them, her son Aaron is suffering from an ailment which will eventually cause him to be both deaf and blind but in the meantime he is fascinated by flying and his kites.

After much persuasion from Al she eventually agrees to meet with the studio boss, Jeff Green (Danny Huston, Masters of sex, 2014) who informs her that there is a fundamental way in which the studios are working and that essentially actors and actresses are no longer needed. He makes her an offer she cannot refuse, but true to form she does and needs to be convinced of it. She eventually agrees but puts in some conditions, not least of all, that the “life” time-span of the contract would be 20 years, if they wanted it again it would need to be renewed. The studio will take a digital image of her and use that for making movies, she just needs to retire and not act – anywhere in the world.

We then see Robin in her early 60’s arriving at the gates of Miramount Studio’s animated City. We are not told what this is until we get there. At this stage the film turns to animation of a style reminiscent of Waltz with Bashir and more than subtle homage to the Japanese. It seems everybody is now taking a drug which allows them to essentially be who they imagine themselves to be. She arrives at a convention as a guest of the studio, only to discover she is the 6th Robin Wright to book-in. The hotel is a frenzied mix of studio executive types and other strung out and visibly the worse for wear. Nobody is who they seem, the drug takes care of that. The entire hotel and convention scene is one of bacchanalian and hedonistic partying, perhaps reminiscent of the scenes from an imagined world’s ending. It turns out it might be.

The new contract is needed because it turns out that the technology of 20years ago is no old hat and the new contracted is needed, now Robin Wright will be a sensation – a sensual sensation rather than just an image. She agree and goes to the launch where she rails against the studio machine and is promptly removed, but as this happens there is a revolution of sorts at the hotel. In the middle of this revolution the studio police come after her and the execution scene is straight from Paths to Glory, (Stanley Kubrick, 1957). After this we see how she is in fact suffering from a type of drug induced poisoning which dooms her to life in this alternative reality. She is put in to a sleep with the hope of waking her up once a cure is found. She is woken and advised to stay in this world but goes back to the old world where she quickly sees reality. It is not a good place. The world she left behind has changed, freedoms are removed, society has fallen victim to the drug, there are now two types of people – the “management” who are not on the drug and everybody else whose lives are controlled by it.

Part live action part animation this movie looks at a number of issues and how they affect not just Hollywood. Do we recognise when we have it good, how much of what is around us is illusion and what is reality. How do we know the difference and how do we make it happen?

This is a slightly challenging film to watch, mainly because it does actually challenge you to listen, watch and experience the movie.

6.5/10 this a better than average film, not perfect, but given the experimental nature of this work it stands up well and provides a very entertaining piece of work that does leave you asking questions.


First off, this is a smarter than average piece of Sci-fi.  As I’ve mentioned before, there are some movies I will see purely for their pedigree, even before I know the plot, Looper was one those movies.  Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, 2005) it also stars Joseph Godon-Levitt who also took the lead  in the same neo-noir classic.  Throw in Bruce Willis for some fun and we’ve a good mix.

In statistics two does not usually make a trend, but in cinema it might just.  This is the second major movie this year where the lead characters are the same person but from different times. We saw this first in Men In Black III (Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012, see below) In tha movie our heroes went back in time to affect the future. The comic nature of the movie allowed Josh Brolin to do an excellent impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones’ character “K”. With Looper we do not have an established character such as “K”, so we could not as readily pick up on the mannerisms and peculiarities of the character, the physical characteristics had to be the key.

Now any of you old enough to remember Moonlighting (1985) will remember know that J G-L is not a dead ringer for the younger Bruce Willis. However some neat special effects and make up gave us two actors playing the same character, check the eyebrow movements and even the shape of the nose.  I have to say the altered JG-L took a little getting used to , especially since Premium Rush (See Below) is so fresh.

All that aside the story revolves around a young man who has become a “Looper”, essentially a mafia hit man with a difference.  In the future time travel is perfected and quickly outlawed.  However other advances in biometrics also mean that the killing and dumping of victims has become almost impossible. As a result the mafia in the future employs the illegal time travel, all one way in to the past and sends one of its top men, Abe, (Jeff Daniels, The Lookout, 2007 – also staring Joseph Gordon Levitt) back to the “present” of the story and has him set up his own crime organisation.  Daniels and Gordon Levitt are two very versatile actors not afraid to stretch their range and always know just how far to stretch. There is a cold danger to the Character of Abe which comes across nicely.  As part of this he hires a team of young men to act as Loopers. They go to a certain place at a certain time and the victim appears, they quickly shoot them, take the payment silver bars attached to the body and then dispose of the body. All very neat and tidy.  Earning all concerned an nice living (with the exception of the now dead victim). Life is good until Loopers start getting paid off by their future bosses. The nature of the pay-off is the issue of concern, They unknowingly kill their future selves; the problem is that when their victims appear they are hooded and in straight-jackets facing away from their executioner.  But things go wrong, one survives and people find out what is happening – they get paid off in gold and know they have about 30 years of life left.

With our main characters this goes spectacularly wrong, future Joe, survives, manages to convince present Joe of the issue and while both are being hunted by the mafia, Noah Sagan (you guessed it…Brick) is a hapless mob lieutenant not in good favour with Abe who takes the hunt for Joe extremely seriously and eventually captures him and takes him to Abe, with deadly results for most concerned. Meanwhile older Joe is hunting down the person,  who in the future will be the crime king-pin who has the loopers killed.  Joe Junior goes to one of the addresses, which turns out to be the one. A lone mother, (Emily Blunt, The Adjustment Bureau, 2011), who as it turns out is protecting a very gifted child in an isolated farm.  Ultimately the battle culminates in this isolated farm…

This movie is based on very philosophical science, and I thought I noticed the soundtrack (at least twice) sounding very Whovian at the point where the  time travel occurred . They successfully managed to convey the plot while carefully avoiding all of the science but keeping within the rules of time travel as understood (I’m sad enough to principles of the science involved). This is good solid entertainment.  It slows a little in the middle but picks up again building to the climax.

Entertainment from a cast largely used to working together and it shows.

Rating = 7/10