Directed by: Rian Johnson.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Noah Segan.
Set in the not too distant future at the end of the 21st century, Looper starts out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Joe voiceover telling us that time travel doesn’t exist, but that 30 years from now, it will. As he sets up a sheet in a field someone out in the countryside, he continues to tell us that, immediately time travel will be outlawed, but that the richest criminals will still manage to use it, to send back people that they want eliminated to people like him – Loopers, to kill and dispose of their bodies.
Saving up half of his silver bars he’s paid with so that one day he can retire and live a life of luxury elsewhere, everything seems to be going fine for Joe until his Boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), a man who has come back from the future to manage the loopers, calls him in as one of his ‘loops’ – his target – is his friend’s future self. After his friend is dealt with, Joe goes back to his normal life, but when his next loop arrives, it’s his older self (Bruce Willis), who has come back for a reason and escapes, preventing his younger self from killing him.
This movie has been described in some reviews as being the new Matrix, I would suggest rather that, being that it deals with time-travel, it’s more of a new Inception than a new Matrix. Trust me when I say, if you are not prepared to pay attention and the multi-layered workings of Inception gave you a headache, Looper may just give you an embolism.
A great way to describe how this movie works is by referencing one of the most well known time-travel movie series – Back to the Future. If like me, you wondered why we didn’t see the events in BTTF2 (ie, a second Marty in 1965 in the background) in BTTF1, then you should understand this movie fairly well – in that trilogy we saw things chronologically, in order, cause and effect – in Looper, it’s a whole different story, we see effect in many instances before cause. In my screening of this, a few audience members left about 20 minutes into the movie, and that is where it’s most complicated, as we see a flash-forward version of events so that we understand older Joe’s motives.
The way that the effect is done is also impressive and at the same time horrifying. Early on, we see his friend as time catches up with him and see how changes to a person in the present catch up with their future selves, as the man suddenly begins to lose fingers, and have scars appear on his body that have been happening to his younger self, showing suddenly how time is catching up with him.
Before the movie, I wasn’t too sure about the casting of Gordon-Levitt and Willis playing the younger/older parts of the same characters, but can confirm that the two work well together in the movie – a little bit more work could have been done with the two trying to work out a similar body of mannerisms to sell it, but as they are the two are believable in the movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as the younger Joe, a drug addict who has no problem with killing his older self to close his loop – in a scene with the two of them sitting across from one another, he outlines his philosophy that the older Joe has had his life, now die and let me get on with mine.
Willis likewise is great as the older Joe, who shows guilt and shame over the mysterious events of his past, which are staring right back at him, whilst hiding a secret motive that is so dark that it’s truly disturbing. He also has to deal with moments of his past and his memory changing, when his being there alters his younger self’s path, resulting in his memories changing, and painfully so.
Additional cast members such as Emily Blunt giving an odd yet interesting performance as Sara, a woman who lives with her son on a farm that Joe finds himself arriving at, as well as Jeff Daniels as Joe’s boss from the future, though Daniels is largely wasted in the small role. A villain played by Noah Segan gets more screen time, but is largely forgettable and one dimensional, had he been a bit of a more menacing character it would have at least made him more interesting.
Overall a solid action direction from writer/director Rian Johnson, though it does struggle a little thematically and some may find some of the topics it deals with difficult to stomach, though the ending is a little rough, it stands up there amongst the best time-travel thrillers around.