If one examines most time-travel stories too hard (With the possible exception of ‘Primer’) little plot holes will almost always eventually turn up. ‘Looper’, like one of its clear influences, ‘The Terminator’, uses time travel as a plot device rather than main subject matter, facilitating it to tell an excellent story, and even has characters tell other ones not to think too hard about how time travel works. That’s not to say that ‘Looper’ is lacking in the brain department though.
‘Brick’ director Rian Johnson re-teams with star Joseph Gordon Levitt who plays, Joe, a mafia hitman in future Kansas City who executes criminals the moment they are sent back from a further future where time travel is possible (but illegal), but disposing of bodies is more of a tricky business. The catch is, at some point they will have to murder their future selves. Of course, this doesn’t go too smoothly for Joe.
I’ll say now that ‘Looper’ has been marketed excellently and even if you’ve seen all the trailers and such, it’s likely to surprise you with the directions it takes, and it’s better not to say more about the plot.
‘Looper’ crams in aspects of many different genres, as diverse as horror and western to its mainly Sci-Fi whole with little trouble. Johnson really shows us what he’s capable of as a filmmaker here, giving us some awesome action sequences, alongside thought-provoking dramatic ones, and quite possibly the most disturbing scene I’ve seen all year. It’s a film brimming with ideas; even the brief glimpses we get at the future city outside are fascinating, and it makes the most of its limited budget.
Having two recognisable actors playing the same character can prove tricky, but Johnson opts for having the more well-known face – Bruce Willis – appear as he usually does while having Joseph Gordon-Levitt altered to match him, it’s a sensible decision. Gordon-Levitt isn’t caked in make-up but does have some prosthetics, most notably to make his nose resemble the distinctive shape of Willis’. It’s not too distracting and for the most part he does just look like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His performance though, is based on Willis, and he mimics many of Bruce’s mannerisms rather well. There isn’t really any point when you don’t buy into them being the same person. It may well get people wondering about what they would make of their younger or older self if they were to meet them.
‘Looper’ is not without minor problems, though, the film is not told entirely from young Joe’s perspective, but he provides an occasional explanatory voiceover which is useful in places but unnecessary in others, for example when informing us that his boss (the great Jeff Daniels) is from the future, then a few minutes later said boss states directly ‘I’m from the future’.
Overall though, this is the kind of film that absolutely deserves success, a bold, original script coming from a very talented director that will surely get people talking. (Indeed I quite want to say a lot more about the film and its later developments that could leave you changing your mind about who the hero and villain are several times, but would only spoil it)