The new time-traveling sci-fi flick from Rian Johnson (who brought us the fantastic Brick and The Brothers Bloom) features Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a professional hitman called a ‘looper’, who must track down his future self Bruce Willis.
A strange premise, and one that can easily ‘fry your brain’ (as one character puts it) when you think about it too much. Looper is smart and new, while keeping to the same sci-fi tricks that will keep genre fans enticed. Johnson decides to depart from the white, pristine vision of the future for a dirty, almost-apocalyptic and poverty-stricken future that is reminiscent of older sci-fi films like Blade Runner and is beautifully done.
The world that Joe (JGL) inhabits is actually pretty close to ours. Technology hasn’t jumped all that far. The most ‘out-of-this-world’ we get is a hover-bike, an automated crop duster and some cool-looking mobile phones (which aren’t featured prominently, they’re more of an aside that we see in a few scenes and they’re all the better for it). Time travel hasn’t even been invented by this point, it’s not until 30 years in the future that it’s sorted out, as you may have guessed from trailers.
Looper decides to avoid the questions about society and poverty, it’s merely a backdrop to all that occurs. The homeless are everywhere and murders, gunshots and crime seem to be an everyday occurrence. At one point we catch a glimpse that maybe JGL’s Joe has worries about this kind of society, but that’s quickly dismissed. If anything, it’s where Looper falls down. We see a few avenues of plot opening up, but they aren’t really followed.
The film calmly draws you in though, explaining the world that Joe lives in and we start to get a firm understanding. Soon though, characters let their ‘loops run’, which is when they let their future selves free instead of killing them like they’re supposed to (that’s right, part of being a looper is that you have to execute yourself) and that’s when the time travel stuff starts to get a bit mind-boggling.
Take Bruce Willis’ advice to his younger self – shut up and don’t talk about it. Once you move past the hows and whys, the film becomes far more enjoyable. Theories about how time travel works in that universe come up and explain it, but it’s best not to think about it constantly. It’ll distract you from a wonderful and exciting film.
At this point, as there’s not any real place to put this, I’ll mention the prosthetics used by the film to make JGL look like Bruce Willis. They aren’t great. We know. He looks kind of like him, but the facial structures are just too different. Try not to let it bug you, JGL still manages to sound and act exactly like Bruce Willis would (except in some more shout-filled scenes). He’s quite clearly one of the best actors rising through the ranks and his fame is well deserved. You’ll catch glimpses of his own mannerisms here, but let’s be honest – who else could be Bruce Willis except for Bruce Willis?
The action scenes in the film are great, adrenaline-filled and bloody, the comedy moments are pretty great and the film can become distinctly dark and brutal without any warning, occasionally dragging you back down to the grim reality of the situation in case the lighter moments threw you off.
Towards the latter half of the film though, we see Joe shack up with Emily Blunt and her kid. This is where a lot of other reviewers and cinema-goers had a problem. It falls into a trend we’ve already seen of ‘killer with a heart of gold falls for family gal’. It’s a bit odd, but it kind of works. The child, Sid, is a source of annoyance for some and an interesting character for others. Some find him far too precocious and overly smart for his actual age, and find him a bit of a ‘cop-out’ character. I kind of liked his inclusion, although it’s fairly obvious as soon as you meet him why he’s there, (Trying to not give away too much here) and Looper could have done with a bit more intrigue before introducing the character.
Another part of the film, that I feel I should mention, is it’s inclusion of telekinetic mutants. It’s an odd aside at the beginning of the film, and isn’t addressed throughout most of it but apparently there are a small percentage of people in the future who develop TK powers. It’s vital to the plot, but is so in the background that it’s almost like a deus ex machina – a plot device more than an interesting development in the world.
However, for all of its faults, Looper is a fantastic film and deserves a place in the upper-echelon of science-fiction movies, especially this side of the year 2000. It’s gritty, dark, sometime humours and an engaging and exciting film to watch. Well worth the price of a ticket and long discussions, make sure that you try and catch this film at some point. (Although those who found The Matrix, Inception or Donnie Darko confusing may find this film loses you a bit – just try to ignore the ‘huh?’ factor)