Caution – may contain a few little spoilers
In 2072, time travel has been invented and immediately outlawed. The technology is controlled by the Mob, and whenever they want to get rid of someone, they send them thirty years into the past, where a hired gun, known as a Looper, is waiting to dispose of the victim.
But there is a condition attached to the job. One day, the Looper’s future self will appear before him, bound and gagged and ready for disposal, having learned too much about his employers. This is known as ‘closing the loop’.
When the future self (Bruce Willis) of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appears before him for liquidation, events begin to spiral out of control.
Looper has been promoted as ‘This decade’s The Matrix’. But does it live up to the hype?
This is actually an understated and powerful film, it doesn’t focus too heavily on the science-fiction elements of the story, nor do the action sequences overwhelm the plot. The real power comes from the quiet, contemplative moments where the weight of future possibilities rest forcefully on Joe’s shoulders.
Looper continues the recent evolution of Joseph Gordon-Levitt from teen comedy star to movie heavyweight. In recent years, we’ve seen the actor come-of-age on screen, from romantic lead in 500 Days of Summer, to action figure in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. In Looper, he manages to be convincing as the young Bruce Willis, thanks in part to the subtle make-up and prosthetics that transform him into a plausible version of the Die Hard star, whilst still retaining his own features.
But his performance is what helps to make the film. As Joe, a hired killer, he is meticulous and cold-blooded, carrying out his job with precision in the backwoods farm communities of Kansas, before heading to a local diner to practice his French with a friendly waitress or partying with the other Loopers in the Mob’s club, where he has a tentative relationship with dancer/prostitute, Suzie (Piper Perabo). Joe also has a moral side, trying to help his friend Seth (Paul Dano) when he fails to close his own loop, and protecting single mother, Sara (Emily Blunt), and her son later in the film when they are caught up in his troubles.
It is the human element of the film that is the most striking thing about Looper, but its special effects serve to support the bursts of action and create a convincing futuristic setting. They also provide the key moment of horror, when the consequences of Seth’s failure to dispose of his older self are revealed.
Women play an interesting role in the film, with the juxtaposition between whore and mother being central to the characters of Suzie and Sara. Both are mothers and have spent time in the city as party girls, but they are at opposite ends of the evolutionary arc – Suzie is still primarily the whore, coming home to her child is a secondary part of her character, whilst Sara’s life in the clubs of the city is behind her, she now lives an isolated life on a farm with her troubled son, and is haunted by her past. Joe’s relationship with both women allows him to offer them an escape, an opportunity to be mother and leave behind the more sordid side of their lives. But whereas Suzie isn’t ready to take him up on his proposition, Sara’s character has already progressed to the point where she needs Joe’s intervention.
As with Inception, some will find it hard to follow this film, as the possibilities of time travel always raise innumerable questions. But I found Looper to be an impressive and intelligent story that captures the imagination and evokes a feeling of redemption, whilst suggesting that even when we can know the future, we still have the power to change things for the better.