SUB-GENRES: Action / Thriller
DIRECTED BY: Rian Johnson
WRITTEN BY: Rian Johnson
PEW PEW: Looper has a nearly perfect action-to-suspense ratio. It’s a really, really cool flick.
CAT FOOD: The film’s message is ultimately quite beautiful, using grey morality to great effect to examine what makes heroes heroes and villains villains.
I know. Time travel movies. They’re usually riddled with plot holes, and often raise more questions than they answer, but just when I thought it had all been done, a little piece of magic called Looper comes along. I picked up a copy of the film to see for myself if this Rian Johnson cat was up to the task of directing a Star Wars film (2017’s sequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens), little did I know I’d be pretty much glued to the screen for the film’s two hour running time.
In 2074, time travel is entirely possible, but it is completely illegal. Due to a complicated tagging process that makes it hard for the mob to dispose of bodies, the crime syndicates use a teleporter to send their enemies thirty years into the past, where a looper waits at a precise location to make the kill. The body is then disposed of in the past. No more loose ends.
When the mob wishes to ‘close the loop’ and end a looper’s service, they find him in the future and send him back to the past for the looper to kill. They then send his younger self on his way with his money and let him live out the remaining thirty years of his life in peace.
Our story begins in 2044 (but all the cars make it look like the present for some reason). Our main character, a junkie looper named Joe, begins to notice that several loops have been closed really close together all of a sudden. After a friend of his briefly speaks with his future self, it is revealed that a new and powerful boss called The Rainmaker, who has brutally conquered all of the syndicates in 2074, is hell bent on closing all of the loops.
When his own future self arrives, Joe fails to kill him. In order to save his own life, Joe must pursue his older self, who is on his own mission to fix the future by killing The Rainmaker before he has a chance to grow to adulthood.
While it sounds quite complicated, Looper is presented in such a way that the layers are peeled off the onion one at a time over the entire duration of the film. You’re head might be on the verge of exploding the whole time you’re watching, but the tight writing is such that it never quite goes too far. It really is quite brilliant how the damn thing keeps you guessing all the way through. We get to see the possible future that leads to Old Joe’s present, and then we get to see Young Joe attempt to screw it up completely, all while we’re totally white-knuckling.
Oh, and anything that happens to the younger self impacts the older. This provides some serious shock moments in the film. Like, what happens when the younger self loses a finger… or a nose…
With a fantastic score by Nathan Johnson and ace performances by Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who does a pretty cool Willis impression), Emily Blunt, and Jeff Daniels, Looper is quite a compelling thrill ride that somehow manages to almost perfectly balance action and suspense. I really can’t believe how many twists and turns there are, even when you think there can’t possibly be any more. Believe me, this movie gets pretty damn crazy.
Another cool thing about the movie is that, through expert use of make-up and prosthetics, Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks less like the dude we’re used to seeing and more like a young Bruce Willis. It’s super creepy at first, but the achievement becomes a thoroughly amazing touch as you get used to it.
Also of note is the film’s ultimate message, which I will keep from you because I want you to watch the movie. It makes effective use of one of my favourite things, grey morality, to take a look at just how far we might be willing to go to. Would you kill innocent to stop evil? Would you spare evil to preserve good? The Old Joe has matured through a life of drugs and violence to love a wife who turned his life around, while the Young Joe has none of these memories and has a devil may care attitude, thinking only of the present. The conflict that arises from this is like classic Twilight Zone gold! I mean, seriously, it felt like Rod Serling should have been narrating this.
It’s nothing short of brilliance that such incredibly engaging stuff came out of such an overused genre trope. Not since The Butterfly Effect have I been so enthralled by the concept of time travel. Looper is well worth the watch for those who love a good thrill ride and a spectacular narrative. I proudly place it in the archive as one of few good science fiction films that combine action and suspense with decent social commentary. Looper is way, way too cool to be missed, ladies and gentlemen.