Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Adventure
Run Time: 1 hour 58 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Pierce Gagnon, Noel Segan
Written & Directed by Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom, Brick)
Twice in Looper, characters on screen tell us not to over-think time-travel, or it will just "fry your brain." That may be good advice, because as you leave the theater scratching your head as to what you just saw, you may not want to apply any logic to the incredibly inventive premise, lest be disappointed.
But leave your logical mind at the door. Looper is a sci-fi, time-traveling adventure that is downright entertaining above all else, despite gaping holes in the time-travel logic that it presents. Your brain will indeed scramble as you try to understand what you are watching. But the movie itself tells you not to over-think things and just go with the flow.
In the future - 2077 or thereabouts - time-travel has been invented, but it is an outlawed practice and in the hands of the mob. Due to advanced tagging methods used in the future, it is tough to kill anybody and not get caught. So the mob decides to use a very innovative way to take care of its problems - they send their captives 30 years into the past, where hired hitmen called "loopers" await to kill the person and dispose of the body. These loopers are paid handsomely, and they never know who their victims are.
But on occasion, the future mob needs to cover its tracks, and so they send back the future version of the looper to be killed by the younger version. This process is known as "closing the loop." The looper is paid handsomely and then knows that they have another 30 years of life left to enjoy.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper, but imagine his surprise when his future self (Bruce Willis) shows up and is able to escape. Older Joe is on a mission to alter the future, but younger Joe needs to kill him and close his loop, in order to maintain and enjoy all of the riches that he has yet to experience.
Yeah, don't over-think it. But also don't come into Looper to "escape." You will need to be paying very close attention in order to follow this high-concept story. Damned if it almost didn't work.
The best time-travel films - to me - are ones that are airtight within their limitations of their own rules. To that test, Looper fails. Last year, Source Code was a great film and an example of how time-travel needs to make sense within the rules in which it is presented to us. In Looper, we get highly imaginative concepts but many missed opportunities. Much of what happens late in the film doesn't add up to the post-screening scrutiny, as each moment is dissected in my mind over and over again.
Time-travel films open themselves up to scrutiny, and half the fun of them is being able to make sense of it all. Many ideas work, but many don't seem to add up. Perhaps I'm missing something. Perhaps not.
I applaud the effort of making a fully original sci-fi film, with one of the most distinct visions of a post-apocalyptic future in recent movie memory. With the interesting premise and a very interesting - if not baffling - conclusion, Looper's mid-section drags and seems to drift. It borrows concepts most notably from films like The Terminator and X-Men, and succeeds at making a memorable if flawed movie-going experience.
And how do they get Joseph Gordon-Levitt to look so much like a young Bruce Willis? Make-up apparently, although I thought that it may have been some kind of CG trick. Looper in the same way, resembles something that we know, but puts a new face on it.
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