It’s very difficult to make a serious movie about time travel these days. Since time travel is in itself logically impossible, most any movie which broaches the subject is bound to run into a string of paradoxes and impossibilities. Not so with Looper, the latest from director Rian Johnson, which stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (of Batman and Inception) and Emily Blunt.
Looper is set in 2044; thirty years before the invention and subsequent prohibition of time travel. In the future, tracking devices have made it almost impossible to dispose of a body, and so criminal organisations send their targets back in time to be executed by their assassins in the past. These assassins are known as loopers. Loopers are paid in silver, which they use to fund a lifestyle of fast cars, drugs and prostitutes. This lifestyle is doomed to be short-lived however, as loopers are ultimately required to kill their future selves. This is known as “closing the loop”, and allows the crime bosses to maintain a clean, traceless business. Failure to kill your future self is extremely messy, and can result in a gruesome sort of manhunt.
The film’s main protagonist is Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Joe is a looper, and spends his days blasting away hooded figures with his blunderbuss. He hesitates for a moment when a hoodless figure, his older self (Bruce Willis), arrives for execution. There is a charged moment where the two make eye contact and we can fully appreciate the level of prosthetic work that went into creating a believable similarity between the two. Anyway, young Joe hesitates and allows Old Joe to escape. This has dire implications for young Joe, who must capture Old Joe and kill him before his bosses find out and kill them both.
After a fashion, the two Joes meet in a diner, and a conversation ensues that showcases Johnson’s wily and canny handling of time travel. Old Joe reveals that in the future, the world is plagued by a tyrant called The Rainman, whom he intends to kill in the past to spare the future. He flatly refuses to delve into any of the more intricate details of time travel, sparing us all some head scratching and allowing the movie to progress at an engaging rate.
Its handling of time travel isn’t the only thing that Looper has going for it. It creates an extremely believable image of 2044 America. The land is crippled by economic depression, and though there are just enough subtle changes in technology to consistently remind the viewer that the picture is set in the future, it never goes overboard or becomes tacky. Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a masterful impersonation of a young Bruce Willis. He completely understands the many idiosyncrasies that make the Die Hard star so recognisable. It was also refreshing to see Willis himself doing some real acting again. The two worked well together, and expertly handled some possibly messy scenes.
Reminiscent a little of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Looper really is a surprisingly enjoyable movie. It avoids embarrassing itself with the intricacies of time travel, and really is worth a watch by all accounts.