Synopsis: In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.
Release Date: September 28, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Science Fiction, Thriller
Time travel has been a dramatic element of cinematic history for a long time. Whether it’s H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine or Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back to the Future, the concept of breaking the time barrier is nothing new. In Looper, writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick) manages to inject a bit of originality into an age-old movie premise.
In the year 2072, time travel is not only possible but illegal. Therefore, the only people who use it are the mob, who have found an ingenious way to get rid of their enemies; they transport them back thirty years to 2042 where a waiting assassin, an individual known as a Looper, kills the person and disposes of the body, thus leaving no evidence of the murder in the future. When a Looper is no longer needed, the mob sends their future self back to be killed – by their past self. This is known as “closing the loop,” and it comes with a huge payday for the Looper, who gets to live the next thirty years in comfort until the mob inevitably comes for them to send them to their predetermined death.
The worst thing that a Looper can do is to let their future self escape. This is exactly what happens to Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt from The Dark Knight Rises), a dedicated Looper who hesitates just long enough for the Older Joe (Die Hard‘s Bruce Willis) to get away. Joe takes it upon himself to track down Old Joe himself before his bosses can find him, hoping to close the loop before it is closed for him. Once Joe confronts his future self, he learns that Old Joe has an objective that he must carry out, with or without Joe’s help; he wants to kill the person who will ultimately be responsible for the death of his wife who, in the present, is a child. Because Old Joe has basically lived through everything Joe does, he is able to stay a step ahead of him. Joe has to find a way to close his loop without disrupting the present.
On the surface, Looper is a loose retelling of James Cameron’s The Terminator – a man is sent back in time to stop something from happening that will greatly affect the future. The clever twist of having Joe essentially have to hunt himself is what makes Looper such an engaging film. Because the men are the same person and know each others’ movements and thought processes, the cat and mouse hunt that ensues between Joe and Old Joe is full of interesting twists and turns. Looper is not a pure action film; it’s much smarter than that.
That’s not to say that it moves slowly – it is, after all, a Bruce “Yippie-Ki-Yay” Willis film. There’s plenty of gunfire, explosions and car chases. But Looper is much more than its fight sequences. It’s a high-tech mystery film reminiscent of Blade Runner or Minority Report, a science fiction film that seems much more plausible than the generic pew-pew-pew space operas that clutter the genre. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is surprisingly convincing as a younger Bruce Willis, and both stars do a good job at walking the line between action hero and emotional thespian.
Looper is a good mix of action and drama that doesn’t lean too close to either side, so it achieves success on both fronts. There’s something for everybody in Looper; it’s an intelligent film that’s full of excitement, thrills, and twists that do not disappoint the audience.
Rian Johnson’s script for Looper does a pretty good job of dealing head-on with many of the concerns of time travel. While it doesn’t actually address the effect of all of the carnage that Old Joe causes on the future, that stuff is more like collateral damage than actual cause-and-effect incidents. What Looper does tackle is the issue of Old Joe’s interaction with Joe and its effect on Old Joe’s memories. In an interesting scene in a diner (where both Joe’s order the same exact thing), Old Joe explains to Joe that his memories of things that have not yet happened in Joe’s life are foggy and hazy, and as soon as they happen they snap into clarity.
It’s an interesting way to deal with the fact that there are several sets of memories that Old Joe has that reflect the changes in life direction that his influence on Joe is having. There’s another fascinating scene where another Looper that has let his older self-escape is tortured and disfigured, and his older self sees his fingers and other appendages disappear until he comes to the place where his younger self is being maimed, the mob’s way of getting the escapee to return. Johnson’s screenplay raises more philosophical questions about movie time travel than most films that broach the subject, applying the chicken-egg question to the impact of the traveler’s interactions with himself. Looper deals with the subject in a rare combination that is both intelligent and entertaining.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Rian Johnson
- Screenwriter(s): Rian Johnson
- Cast: Bruce Willis (Old Joe), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Joe), Emily Blunt (Sara), Paul Dano (Seth), Noah Segan (Kid Blue), Piper Perabo (Suzie), Jeff Daniels (Abe), Pierce Gagnon (Cid), Qing Xu (Old Joe’s Wife), Garret Dillahunt (Jesse)
- Editor(s): Bob Ducsay
- Cinematographer: Steve Yedlin
- Music Score: Nathan Johnson
- Country Of Origin: USA