Looper is a refreshing take on the time travel sci fi film genre bringing about new ideas, but may possibly suffer from trying too many ideas.
In the future time travel is invented, organised criminal organisations use it to send people they want to get rid of back in time to “Loopers” (hit men for hire). When they want to fire a Looper his future self gets back in time to be killed (by himself) but they get a massive payout knowing they will die in 30 years time in which they can indulge in hedonism and feeling immortal. Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) is a Looper whose future self (Bruce Willis) escapes and he must track him down or be killed himself.
Rian Johnson has definitely been influenced by the likes of Back to the Future, Twelve Monkeys & Blade Runner. The future in Looper is a dystopian one, where wealth is very unevenly distributed & criminal organisations run riot. China is now the largest superpower with it’s currency being used worldwide and there are mandatory hover bikes. The art direction in this film is fantastic, Johnson goes the route of not completely changing the world to be indifferent, for the most part it is a recognisable future. But rather than everything being shiny & sanitised, everything has a worn feel.
A strong beginning takes you into the brutality of the film immediately within a matter of seconds as a Looper blows away a target at he pops into existence. Loopers themselves are not made to be likeable. Joe’s character is trying to get out and carve out a new life for himself, yet he is still a killer without question. It is unique in a way because there is no one side which we are supposed to take. It brings up the question of what is right and wrong in terms of utilitarianism vs morality.
Joseph Gordon Levitt’s approach to trying to embody Bruce Willis is fantastic. Willis himself in real life was said to be impressed, having recognised his own expressions and intonations in Levitt. It is rather uncanny the way he smirks and talks completely taking on another’s persona, but the prosthetics do not quite do the performance justice. One direct cut between a long haired JGL & long hair Bruce Willis does require an incredulous smirk. Bruce Willis as the equally unstoppable old Joe pulls out one of his better performances. An honourable mention must also go to Jeff Daniels who plays a disillusioned mob supervisor sent back in time to find and recruit Loopers. It is all strung together by Rian Johnson’s sharp and intelligent dialogue which is patterned with dry and biting humour.
Where Looper does suffer is in the confusion of it’s plot and explanation of it’s own time construct. Johnson tries to jokingly explain this away with a line in the film about how it would take a while and a whole load of straws. But at the end of the day it just doesn’t add up. There are also other elements added in such as a genetic mutation in people which somewhat muddies the water of what starts as a strong film. But in all Looper is an enjoyable experience that makes itself one of the more standout sci-fi films without sacrificing character development for inane action sequences.