In the not so distant future, a special group of hitmen known as Loopers are charged with a singular task – killing and disposing of bodies sent back from the year 2072 where time travel exists. When one Looper lets his older self get away, the race is on to save his future.Looper
is a time travel movie. It’s a sci-fi subgenre which carries its own issues – mainly how to toe the line between keeping the inevitable paradoxes and chronological clashes from spoiling the experience and still delving deep enough into the concept to justify the convoluted potential. And Looper
manages to do both admirably, chiefly by not giving a damn whether the audience is keeping up.
It’s the third film from American director Rian Johnson
, who made a triumphant debut with 2005s Brick
before stumbling with The Brothers Bloom
is without a doubt his most impressive output to date, leveraging a higher budget to create a nested future world which explodes off the screen – apparent tech mixing with a familiar but skewed aesthetic and a central plot which contains the kind of tightly wound drama you rarely see in genre films.
At one point in the first half of the film, Johnson
diverges from the current narrative to show us a fast forward version of the life of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt
). It’s a sequence which left me chasing narrative strands for a moment, working to reassess the nature of the character and the new pieces of information which informed my opinion of Old Joe (Bruce Willis)
all while essentially a second movie played out in a few short minutes.
It’s a daring filmmaking decision and far from the only standout scene in the film – one method of tracking down escaped time travellers literally had my jaw on the floor. Johnson
has always had an eye for arresting imagery and production design but Looper
is a thing of rare and sometimes terrible beauty. Certain shots still linger in my memory, freeze frames which wouldn’t be out of place in a graphic novel that help to reinforce the powerful story-telling.Johnson
helped the world discover Gordon-Levitt
and their pairing here is even more memorable. There’s been a lot of focus on the makeup which is supposed to make JGL
resemble a younger Willis
. It doesn’t. What sells it far more are some subtle ticks the younger man uses, a sidelong smirk here and a dash of bass to his voice there. It’s never overt but really helps to sell that connection. And it’s a standout performance all round for the 31 year old, mixing impressive physicality with the rock star swagger of these Loopers, a façade which quickly erodes as the young man gets out of his depth.Willis
does good work here too, some of his best in recent years. His story is more emotionally overwrought than the rest of the cast and the twists never make it easy for the audience to pick sides. Emily Blunt
notches up another memorable turn and the supporting players are universally excellent – from some refreshing moments of comedy courtesy of Jeff Daniels
to Paul Dano
and a significant short appearance by Garret Dillahunt
is a film which demands to be experienced fresh, you’ll find no spoilers here and would do well to avoid any explanatory material. In return, you’ll be treated to a visionary slice of pure science-fiction, a film which is as concerned with diving deep into the idea of time travel and its potential pitfalls as it is with presenting a finely crafted, impeccably designed near future world.
Complex without being complicated, devilishly dark but prone to moments of levity and full of remarkable moments and images, Looper
is destined to be one of the most talked about movies of the year. Don’t miss it.