Director: Rian Johnson
Year Released: 2012
Running Time: 118 minutes
Classification: R (MA15+)
Genre: Science fiction, Action/Adventure, Thriller
It was the premise that hooked me: a hitman's next target is his future self. Will he kill himself or let himself go? Whatever the outcome, it's a great concept. Thankfully, it's also a concept done well. Looper is one smooth sci-fi caper and a welcome breath of fresh air in an era of sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes.
So the year is 2044 and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who looks strange but fairly convincing in Bruce Willis-ifying make up with extra thick eyebrows) is a looper, an assassin who kills and disposes of mob targets sent from the future. The world is a grim place, with rampant crime and poverty, but it's also close enough to ours to seem possible. Life is pretty routine for Joe until he finds out that the future crime king, the Rainmaker, is “closing the loops” - that is, sending the loopers' future selves back in time for assassination. When Joe's future bad-ass self (Bruce Willis) is sent back, he escapes assassination. The various conflicts between young Joe, old Joe, the mob and eventually Sara (Emily Blunt) provide rich fodder for suspense and moral dilemmas, making for a smart and intriguing film.
If the time travel aspect seems daunting – don't worry; the film is easy to follow and explains what you need to know. As old Joe says, you can just figure out the diagrams and stuff later on. I'm just going to say that I love time travel stories and have noticed that there are usually two types (as depicted in fiction). First, there's the closed system kind (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gargoyles), in which there is only one reality – any attempt to change the past is impossible, as it will just bring about the things that were meant to happen. Second, there's the infinite possibilities kind (Back to the Future, The Lake House), where you can change the past, but this creates paradoxes or alternate realities. Looper belongs in this second group and it has paradoxes. My advice? Don't think too much about it unless you're a fan of headaches or you like playing “spot the paradox” or “why don't they just do [x]?”. Whether this bothers you is a matter of taste, but I'll say that it's closer to Back to the Future than The Lake House in terms of making sense.
The film has a slick feel to it, but it's not like your typical Big Action Movie. Sure, it's fast-paced and most of Bruce Willis' scenes involve him being Bruce Willis (in a good way), but there are also slower moments and sparse-looking shots that bring an almost art-house or dramatic vibe to the movie. The world-building is solid as are the performances, including child Cid (Pierce Gagnon). I liked that all the characters had their own motivations, were interesting, and worked well with and against each other in the grand scheme of things. As an aside, one aspect I should warn you about is the violence and gore – the fate of Seth (Paul Dano) is the stuff of nightmares oh my god.
However, I get the feeling that Looper won't stick around in my consciousness for too long. Not sure why, but I felt like there could have been something more, or that something was missing – it felt a little cold, almost clinical. Despite the moral and emotional issues at hand, I didn't really connect with the characters. The plot somehow felt too straightforward at times, despite the time travel and the twists (only a few of which were obvious to me). I also feel like it's the kind of movie I don't need to rewatch any time soon. I can't put my finger on why this is so and am willing to chalk it up to subjective taste.
Looper is fresh, intelligent and definitely one of the better movies I've seen in recent times. I'm probably biased towards it since I've been craving some original high concept sci-fi, but I don't care, it hit the spot like a cool glass of lemonade at the end of a hot day. Rian Johnson's done a fine job and I'll definitely be watching out for his future projects.
Alex's Rating: 4/5