Time travel films require a certain amount of faith on the part of the viewer. If you are willing to accept the premises presented then all is well. In some films thinking a bit too much about the science behind the time travel elements of the plot lead to questions and problems appearing. When this occurs it is easy to be taken out of the film in terms of the enjoyment. Looper deals with these issues quite effectively within the film. On two separate occasions characters dismiss all talk of time travel theory because it really screws with your head. Basically the film is saying that there are questions but let’s not dwell on them here. This is a movie for you to enjoy. A nice touch in sidestepping the plot holes from the talented writer / director Rian Johnston.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper. A hired killer for the mob. In the mid twenty-first century time travel has been invented. The technology was immediately outlawed. The mob got their hands on it and went about using it in a unique way. At the end of the century it is almost impossible to murder some one and successfully dispose of the body. Surveillance techniques and advances in law enforcement mean that to ensure a problem individual requires a different approach. The solution is simple. The person is sent back in time to 2049, bag on head, to be met and executed by a Looper. Payment for the job is strapped to the back of the victim. The Looper uses a blunderbuss shotgun and then disposes of the body in a secure way. No body in the future, no crime.
Loopers are so-called due to their contact eventually leading to them killing their future self, thus closing the loop. When they execute their older self they are retired from the job with a large pay off and thirty years to live before they are killed. There a large number of loops being closed by a mysterious figure in the future, The Rainmaker, in charge of all illegal activities. Overseeing the work from 2049 is Abe (Jeff Daniels) who was sent back from the future. Joe gets his next job that turns out to be his loop closing. It does not go smoothly as old Joe (Bruce Willis) is not about to die without a fight. Old Joe manages to avoid death and goes on the run. He has a purpose. Find the identity of the Rainmaker and kill him. Joe is intent on stopping his older self at all costs.
Rian Johnston has put together a really interesting film. Visually it looks realistic for the near future. There are a number of changes and improvements, specifically in technology, but on the whole the un-named city looks grimy and tired. It is straight out of a noir film. It has the feel of a noir film at times with the themes of revenge, destiny and fear of the unknown all present in one form or another.
Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have obviously worked closely on their portrayal of the character of Joe. They look the same thanks to some alteration s to Gordon-Levitt especially in the nasal area. Their mannerisms and personality are matching to the extent that they do appear to be two versions of the same person. Willis is on top form here. His style of acting has evolved of the last few years. His performances are very much dialed down these days which is a good alternative to some of his overblown larger than life roles in his past. His performance incorporates a stillness that lends itself to old Joe’s world weariness. Gordon-Levitt follows suit with his own performance ensuring that the portrayal of the character is consistent.
Jeff Daniels, an actor who grows in stature as he gets older is good in his small role of Abe. He, like Willis, chooses not to go overboard with his characters performance. He exudes a quiet menace through out without going full crazy at any point. Emily Blunt is also good in what amounts to a small role. It would have been good to see more of her character as she is a fine screen presence. I can understand why that isn’t the case as the story would have to be altered to accommodate this.
Rian Johnston is a rising star in the world of film making. He has developed rapidly from his first full feature Brick. That in itself was an accomplished and imaginative film that you should check out at your earliest convenience. Rian’s style technique and vision have developed since then resulting in what is presented in Looper, only his third film. It is no surprise that Looper became a sizable international hit given the talent involved both in front and behind the camera. It will be interesting where Johnston goes from here.
Overall an entertaining and very interesting Sci-Fi film. Highly recommended.