As a time travel story fan, I would say that you will most likely have a good time with Looper if you can get past the weird make-up used to disguise Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young Bruce Willis. (Apparently it was easier to turn Levitt into Willis than Willis into Levitt. Whodathunkit?)
A tale of the surprisingly low-key near-future in which most things are, rather than crazily changed, exaggerations of current technology like smaller, clear phones and big, cartoony guns that reminded me of a prop from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, time travel has not yet been invented, but is being implemented.
Time travel exists in the future, but has been made illegal, so the only people using it are criminal organizations. They use it to commit clean murders. Victims are sent back in time at a specific time and place where hitmen called loopers dispose of them; no fuss, no muss. Apparently, once time travel is illegal, only criminals will have time travel. Think about it… won’t you?
One of these loopers is Joe. Apparently good at his job, he wipes out a lot of targets on his tarp near the edges of a cornfield. (The action takes place in an undisclosed city which apparently is not that large because it doesn’t take long to leave it and be in the backwater country.) He gets paid for this by his boss from the future, Jeff Daniels, and puts it away for the future. But loopers are expected to do something unusual; provided they are still alive in a few decades, their future selves are sent back and the loopers are expected to kill themselves, aka “close the loop.” In between dosing himself with eye-administered drugs and oh my lord, I’m turning into one of those critics that tries to fill a review with nothing but a recap of the movie and we know how annoying THOSE are. OK, long story short, everything is fine until his future self (Bruce Willis) pops up and proceeds to screw everything up.
Part of how much you enjoy the film will undoubtedly rely upon your ability to accept Levitt and Willis as the same character. I thought it worked reasonably well, but not always. Eventually, I just let it go because they’re both good. Also of note is Emily Blunt. She is quite good in the film, but in a role I can’t really reveal, as this is one of those movies that’s best to go into without too many spoilers.
Looper may not be as original and imaginative as its backers seem to imply, but it is definitely smart and fun. The film is presented as something of a neo-noir, taking its cues from films like Blade Runner in combining the pulp thrills of crime novellas and sci-fi yarns into a single vision. Writer/director Rian Johnson relies more on writing and ideas than spectacle, a rare instance in this day and age. Thankfully, it also still contains plenty of visceral thrills with gunplay and inventive camera work to spare. It’s also wisely, elusively stingy details to almost the point of frustration. Old Joe keeps tight lipped about the effects of time travel except when hard pressed. Most aspects of the future go unexplained in their appearance or development. Young Joe narrates the movie expecting you already know about the humdrum of everyday future living and only explains the seedy side that most people wouldn’t be aware of. A murderous Dashiell Hammett character-type.
The time travel goes by Back to the Future rules which means it doesn’t necessarily hold to to fierce scrutiny in immediate cause and effect in a lot of cases, but is treated as usually being fluid. But time travel, in not existing anyway, has many interpretations and it’s up to the writer to determine how a change in the present reflects upon a splitting timeline, especially to those present in the original. In the end, it’s a storytelling device and as long as the story is well told and not full of the kind of obvious logical holes that accompany, say, Prometheus, it’s best to enjoy the ride regardless of the physics that make time travel a practical impossibility in the first place for everyone but John Titor. (Just look it up on Wikipedia.)
(Three and a half damns out of five)