From the film’s gripping opening voiceover, to write and director Rian Johnson’s noir-fuelled dystopian sci-fi vision, Looper is a constantly engaging time travel thriller.
As Joe (the ever-watchable Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explains, in 2074 time travel has been invented but is immediately outlawed. However, because of tracking technology, it has become nearly impossible to dispose of bodies without leaving a trace causing crime bosses to illegally exploit time travel to dispose of their garbage, sending back victims with bags over their heads to be disposed of by “loopers”, 30 years in the past. Loops need closing, meaning these killers eventually need to assassinate their 30-year-older-self in order to preserve the secrecy of time murders, closing said assassin’s “loop” and receiving a very golden payday. The closing of a loop is gloriously celebrated, like a rite of passage, providing a disconcerting insight into the world we’re within. Joe’s a looper and the neat, clinical nature of the operation takes a bit of a turn when he finds his older self (Bruce Willis) sent back, without a bag over his head.
The setup couldn’t be much cooler and it certainly couldn’t look much more appealing, unapologetically derivative of classics such as Bladerunner. The film’s logic hinges on the premise that time travel is incredibly confusing, so don’t let your brain melt thinking about its complexities and instead just enjoy a thrilling ride. In fact, the characters pretty much say as much to each other on more than one occasion. As the audience, is that good enough for you?
Normally I write a review just after I’ve seen the film, but Looper‘s been stirring in my mind for a good 10 days and I’m still not quite sure if I can go along with the film’s illogical logic (paradox?). Because when you’re seeing sci-fi rules unravel on screen, it’s hard to not want it to make some sense. I love how time travel stories can play with the “chicken and the egg” question, it can be beyond comprehension and also satisfying in its confusion, but Looper seems to play loosely with multiple different rules, but does it all hang together? If it doesn’t – does it matter?
Let’s step back and recount how many fantastic things there are about Looper. Rian Johnson clearly has a brain, he knows exactly what he’s doing and has a terrific premise and bold sci-fi vision, backed up by a more human story explored later in the film. All the performances are spot on, not just from JGL and Willis but there’s a stupidly good child actor who can’t be older than 5 or 6 with a real range of expression for such a young kid, a terrific bit of casting for such an important role in the film. There’s a lot left to think about and a lot which is only touched upon, not necessarily left unexplained but left for the audience to use their own intuition, moving at a ferocious pace providing little time to take it all in, not unlike Inception. It’s great fun while you’re watching it and great fun to think about later even if those thoughts don’t quite settle into something completely satisfying. Certainly worth a watch.
Review by David Rank
Looper is out now in the UK and US. Certificate 15 (UK). Running time 118 mins.
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