Time-Travel is a tricky thing. No matter how detailed you may be, there is bound to many a plot-hole and paradox established. Some films falter because of due to lack of character, or lack of a self-awareness. There are few successful efforts; Back To The Future did it well due to the fact that it is one of the funnest and entertaining and well written movie ever made. The Terminator kept it going for at least two films. Looper does join the ranks of these more successful time-travel movies, mainly because it is aware of the dangers of over-explaining a concept that merely needs an interesting premise to convince the audience of its concept. And more importantly, it contains well-developed characters who ground the high concept on a human, sometimes super-human, level. However, do not go expecting the genre blending masterpiece of the century, as a lot of critics have been praising it to be. Looper is certainly one of the smarter and impressive Sci-Fi action thrillers of the past 20 years, but it is not one that changes the rules of the game. It does however, confirm Joseph Gordon-Levitt as one of the most surprising actor’s working today, and Rian Johnson as one of the most interesting director’s emerging in Hollywood.
SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW- DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE.
Looper is set in year 2044. Thirties years from 2044, time travel will have been invented, and immediately made illegal. Due to new technology making it impossible to dispose of a body without being court, the Mobsters use time-travel outside of the law to send their targets back in time to be disposed of. Once they are sent back, the targets are killed by these hired killers known as Loopers. In order to make sure there are no loose ends, the crime bosses have a way of ‘closing’ these loops; they send their future self back to be taken out by their younger self. If they fail to do so, then they are automatically given a death sentence. Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of these Loopers, living a life of luxury and indulgence. However, all that he lives by is thrown out of balance when he is faced with the task of closing his loop. His future self (Bruce Willis) escapes his grasp and heads out on a personal vendetta to prevent the rise of a terrible power in the future. The younger Joe must stay one step ahead of his employer and find his future self and put an end to his loop. However, it soon becomes clear that there is more at stake then simply Joe’s present and future life.
Looper is a thoroughly thought out movie with a wonderful concept providing the structure around a Sci-Fi action movie that surprisingly has a strong beating heart within it. The character of Joe is one who is tormented by his own lifestyle; his drug habits and partying lifestyle are a hollow way of attempting to fill the void of intimacy that he is sorely lacking. The older Joe is once again a very tormented character, trying to find anyway to cling on to the happiness and love that he has found in his later years, filling the void that h desperately does not want reappearing. However, in order for him to do such a thing, he must conduct a series of murders that test his devotion and morality. Despite being given a rather awesome Bruce Willis action-star moment, Willis rather downplays the role, resulting in an affectingly tortured performance, one of his best for quite sometime. However, it is Gordon-Levitt who perhaps wins the Joe battle. Aided by some well-judged prosthetic’s, JGL makes for a thoroughly convincing young Bruce Willis. He is a man who has certainly done his homework. He has the air of a Die Hard–era Willis, from the speech pattern to certain facial ticks, he convinces. It helps that he has his own strong star charisma, that shines through enough in order to convince the audience that he is not just playing a young Bruce Willis; he is playing a character.
Within this future landscape, certain individuals of the human race have begun to develop telekinetic abilities, seemingly as a form of evolution. It is an element of the world that plays a large part in one of the main subplots of the movie, namely regarding the future Joe’s mission of saving his future. In order to do this, and this is where most of the spoilers shall come into play, the older Joe is out to kill a small boy who will grow up to become The Rainmaker, a very powerful TK who is responsible for the death of his wife and also a lot of the future’s problems. The young Joe tracks down the young boy first, at a farm in which the boy, Cid, lives with his mother Sara (Emily Blunt). It is here that the film lets itself down somewhat. The opening first act and a majority of the second works as a bombastic, clever, slick and thoroughly engaging Sci-Fi thriller, with a brilliantly dark streak (namely involving the fate of Paul Dano’s character). It builds a steady exciting pace, that is suddenly brought to a walking pace once the young Joe finds Sara and Cid. Emily Blunt impresses as an equally lonely figure to Joe, but it is the character of Cid that causes some issues with the second act. For one, the child actor playing him is perhaps too young; he seems very mature for his age, but instead of containing a dark ferocity that the character should perhaps posses, he just ends up looking ridiculous and rather laughable, making it very hard for me to take the foreshadowing seriously. That, along with too much time and exposition on the farm, makes you crave for the simple yet Sci-Fi twisted take on the chase movie that the first act so effectively established. Which thankfully it does, with that aforementioned, and awesome, Bruce Willis action-star moment.
One thing’s for certain in Looper, Rian Johnson is an incredibly exciting director, and one who I’m sure has plenty more genre blending concoctions yet to give us. From his startling debut with Brick, and his fantastic television work directing the occasional episode of the I-shouldn’t-have-to-tell-you-how-awesome-it-is Breaking Bad, Johnson is a man with a keen visual eye and a wonderful sense of movement, and Looper is his most exciting work yet. He highlights a assured mastery of aesthetics in terms of the design of his future America. It is a world that feels rich, and could easily be exploited further, as there is a sense that we are only viewing a certain aspect of this particular vision of the future. His craft as a writer perhaps could do with some work in terms of pacing, but in terms of concept; Looper is thoroughly captivating. So, despite not being the game-changer that some critics promised, Looper remains one of the more impressive, intelligent and well designed Sci-Fi movies of recent years with a hugely talented cast and crew, that is certainly a trip that I would like to take again very soon.