Rian Johnson has been putting his unique spin on different genres like noir with Brick and the con/heist movie with The Brothers Bloom and now with Looper, we get his take on sci fi/action as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis face off as the younger and older version of the same person in the near future.
The basic gist of Looper is that there are specialized asssassins called Loopers in the year 2044, who take out targets that are sent back in time from the year 2074, that way there is no evidence of the target every existing. Eventually all loopers are forced to kill their older selves, called closing your loop, and they get 30 odd years of living it up until they are the ones sent back to be killed. JGL, as looper Joe, finds himself facing his older self but old Joe is back with a mission and escapes younger Joe, making them both wanted men. The pacing for the first half of the movie is great as we’re introduced to the world and young Joe but it does drag toward the middle as Joe seeks shelter at a farm where Emily Blunt and her son live and we and the characters are literally waiting for the final confrontation.
There is a range of complexity for time travel ranging from the fun but simplistic time travel of The Terminator or Back to the Future to the insane, doctorate level time travel that happens in Primer. Looper is in the upper middle of the spectrum, there’s plenty of fun moments but you definitely cannot turn your brain off and the more you think about what is happening, the more rewarding the movie becomes. There are some fantastic time travel mechanics happening, including a sequence showing how Bruce Willis as old Joe actually killed the old Joe that was sent back to him as young Joe and then became his older self and there’s awesome mechanics around how the younger self’s body relates to the older self, for instance, to send messages to the older self, there are multiple instances of the younger self having a message carved into their arm, which results in a scar showing up on the older self’s arm. How much the older self knows is dealt with smartly as well, as the future is constantly in flux but the older self instantly knows when the younger self does something immediately after the fact, because it has now happened to him as well. If you followed that and it sounds awesome, it is and you should rush out to see Looper, if you are lost, it may not be the movie for you. As good as the time travel mechanics are, another element that feels kind of tacked on, even though it factors pretty heavily into the finale, is the fact that 10% of the population is telekinetic. There is never really any explanation for why this is and as fleshed out as the time travel is, it feels like it was just added to look cool, which, admittedly, it does.
Acting wise, across the board, most everyone is fantastic. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s accent is a little jarring at first but you gradually get used to it and I love his decision to wear prosthetics and contacts to make himself more match Bruce Willis’ face structure and makes the transition from him to Bruce feel more natural. Bruce is great as usual but the one thing that I would criticize is that he starts out with a very clear and emotional goal but kind of turns into a one note villain toward the end of the movie, coincidentally he felt very much like the T-800 in the first Terminator. Emily Blunt is good as well, and completely disguises her adorable British accent with a Southern American accent. They even get a great performance out of the kid actor, Pierce Gagnon, who plays Blunt’s son, Cid, who may or not grow up to be an unstoppable evil force in the future and he instantly shifts from precocious to horrifying in a single scene.
If you’re looking for a smart, fun action movie, Looper is a fantastic choice. It does drag a little in the middle but the time travel ideas it has are fantastic, the world is incredibly cool and well realized and the actors are great across the board. Whatever Rian Johnson brings in the future, I am totally on board for.
4 out of 5