Here’s the thing about Looper; if you see the film with someone, be prepared to have a lengthy conversation in the car about the issues of time travel. If you see the film with a group of people, be prepared to have a heated discussion. I promise, you won’t be able to stop yourself.
In the world of Looper, the present day time is 2044. Time travel has yet to be invented, but in thirty years time travel is a reality, except that it’s immediately outlawed. That’s where the Mafia comes in to play. Mafia gangs of the future dispose of their victims by sending them back in time to 2044, bound with a hood over their head, where hired killers known as Loopers are waiting for them. The instant the time traveling victim appears, the Looper blasts them with a shotgun, then disposes of the body in an incinerator. The perfect crime. The Looper has murdered and disposed of a body that doesn’t yet exist.
The conflict begins when we discover that someone in the future, known only a murderous killer called The Rainmaker, is forcing future versions of the hit men back to 2044 to be shot by their younger selves. Loopers don’t know who their victims are, so from The Rainmaker’s point of view it’s the perfect way of tidying loose ends. Loopers kill their older selves and the loop is closed. Is everything making sense so far?
The plot develops further when Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a one time thief and drug addict hired to be a Looper, realizes that the older man who has just materialized in front of him, ready to be shot, is his future self, and he hesitates. Because of that moment of hesitation, his older self (Bruce Willis) escapes and goes on the run. Knowing that his Mafia employees will need closure, Gordon-Levitt is forced to chase his older self and kill him.
Personally, I always thought that everything you ever needed to know about time travel and the strange anomalies time-hopping creates was covered in the Back to the Future trilogy (skip the messy middle one and enjoy numbers 1 and 3). Looper doesn’t have the same comic energy – at heart it’s actually a drama with action included – but the film is just as imaginative, plus it presents the kind of moral dilemma requiring you to wonder what you might do if you were in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s position.
The script is smart and well-plotted – in order to have some semblance of reasonable continuity writer/director Rian Johnson must have written the screenplay on a spreadsheet with arrows pointing in all directions – plus the performances from all concerned are just right. They’re taking things seriously without comic asides or in-jokes, which is at it should be. With makeup and some prosthetics, Gordon-Levitt’s face has been designed to echo shades of his future Bruce Willis self, and it works, plus it’s good to see Bruce Willis again without his all knowing signature smirk.
The film lets itself down to some degree by an excess in ugly violence which is both heavy handed and often painful to watch. Hands are beaten with hammers, noses are cut off, and one victim even has his chest burst open in a slo-mo explosion of blood, plus watching children in jeopardy to this degree is never entertaining, even if one of the kids is really creepy, but despite this savage indulgence in cruelty, Looper still entertains and challenges in the way you wished more Hollywood product would.
Plus, be ready for that after-movie debate at the conclusion and here’s a question to get you started: Instead of sending the same Looper to kill their future selves, wouldn’t it have been more sensible to send a different Looper to do the execution? If they have no knowledge of the identity of their victims there would be no hesitation in pulling that trigger. Discuss.
MPAA Rating; R Length: 118 Minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)