Time travel stories are hard. You have to have enough cause-and-effect philosophy and convolution to play to the sci-fi crowd, but not so much that it ruins the story for people who get headaches easily. Inevitably, this balance opens up questionable holes in the plot. But while Looper requires a hefty suspension of disbelief to get through, it tells a solid story with unexpected twists that draw you in.
It’s the year 2044. Thirty years in the future, time travel has been invented and subsequently outlawed. Forensic science in the future has also advanced so far that the safe disposal of a body is next to impossible, so when the organized crime syndicates want someone out of the way, they kidnap them and zap them back to 2044, where specialized hitmen called Loopers wait with a blunderbuss shotgun and a one way ticket to the incinerator.
Looper Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) may be a junkie and a killer, but he has a poetic soul, learning French and saving his silver to move overseas when his contract ends. He’s waiting to “close his loop” – a unique retirement plan in which he’ll kill his future self in exchange for freedom and a huge payout in gold bars. But when Old Joe (Bruce Willis) finally appears, he isn’t about to be taken easily, and quickly escapes with a plan to reboot the future by changing the past. Young Joe pursues his older self, while both of them are hunted by the rest of the Loopers, led by Abe (Jeff Daniels), another visitor from the future with the job of keeping everyone in line.
I’ve been deliberately vague about what Old Joe is up to because, refreshingly, the studios marketing Looper have actually held back this element of the story from their advertising, enough for it to be a legitimate spoiler. The fact that you might actually be surprised by a movie for once might be good enough reason to see it, with the warning that people with an aversion to violence, especially as directed toward innocent children, may be quite disturbed.
Sci-fi nerds love poking holes in these kinds of movies – such as “Why not just kill the people in the future and then send their bodies back, to eliminate the danger of them getting loose?” And to his credit, writer-director Rian Johnson has made some effort to explain away Looper‘s logical inconsistencies. But some of his other creative choices actually interfere with the proceedings. The usually reliable Gordon-Levitt, for instance, is hamstrung behind makeup and a raspy voice meant to simulate the young Bruce Willis. It sort of works in the quieter moments, but when the two begin shouting at each other it becomes distractingly silly. The brief, zero-chemistry romance between Young Joe and Sara (Emily Blunt) also seems a product of over-reaching. On the plus side, Willis is in fine form, and little Pierce Gagnon is creepily effective as Sara’s little boy, who comes to play a big role in the end.
Looper is by no means a perfect movie, but it’s a mostly entertaining one, even if only to give you and your friends something to argue about on the car-ride home.
Tags: movie review