Looper (2012)

Ugh, another time travel film. Well this may not have been my real first reaction, but if I had not seen the cast or trailer it most likely would have. Most efforts in time travel films end in our aspiration and dreams of what we can invent – the advancements in technology – but it gets boring when everything happens without any real processing. Time travel technology is right up there with film computer hackers. Twenty seconds during the leading officers spiel about kids and technology where the hacker is into the most top secret government agency. The sense of a utopian society that we reflect in the future is simply boring. It’s why films like Akira (1988) or more recently Cloud Atlas (2012) shine in time displacement because it reflects society as it is, and how it always has been – controlled chaos.

However, as Looper is not one of those films, and actually holds a great dynamic in storytelling I did not feel jaded for time travel. Think of Memento, Terminator, Blade Runner and Inception when focusing on the time travel aspect of this film. Alas, the film itself: Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper (read “hitman”) in the year 2044. His job is to simply kill people thirty years in the future who are sent back through illegal time travel. The execution is simple for the future crime syndicate: send him back, kill him, and there’s no proof that person’s body ever existed. Life is fairly grand if there wasn’t a catch. Since loopers know the game, they can be a problem later on and to fix this they’ll one day be sent back 30 years in time to be executed by their younger selves. Killing ones future self provides a generous reward of gold bars, and the opportunity to live out their final thirty years in relative comfort. But there’s one rule: don’t let your loop escape.

So the beginning of the film is slow. Not in the “boring” slow, but in the “structured routine of younger Joe” slow. He goes to the wakes up, assassinates, gets paid, goes partying, gets high, and goes to sleep. Rinse and repeat these steps a few more times adding a little narration as you go and here we end up with the first major dilemma – Seth (played by Paul Dano) who lets his loop escape. Joe can either abandon him or provide some refuge until Seth can skip town. Being the best friend, Joe does the latter until forced to provide Seth’s location up. I think this is my favourite part of the film when Seth firstly engraves his arm (which transform into scars on his future self), and secondly, the execution of younger Seth causing older Seth to lose all his limbs. Confused?

After the action, and learning the stakes of the film – of not closing your loop – we are ready for Joe’s loop to be closed. You know it’s coming whether you saw the trailer or simply watching for the first time. At the least you’re ready and know it is going to get messy – visually and psychologically. This is when the shift from squandering potential (from doing the same thing everyday) to fatalism and self-doubt.

The dialogue between young Joe and older Joe (played by Bruce Willis) in the diner is an excellent portrayal of strong scriptwriting. The ability to hold a scene when two people are sitting and talking is an achievement in itself, but the references to tense and knowledge of one Joe to the other is perfection. After all, older Joe had done this all before – 30 years to be exact. He even alludes to attempting to change the course of their/his life but failed always ending up in the same position.

Lunch with young Joe and old Joe.

As this scene turns into a shoot out between Joe’s employer and the two Joes, the two end up splitting. Younger Joe ends up on a farm owned by Sarah (played by Emily Blunt) and her younger son Cid (played by Pierce Gagnon). Sarah is telekinetic [read “TK”] (as is ten per cent of the world’s population). However Cid, as we discover is a lot more powerful with his TK and is one hell of a lot more destructive. Days pass and younger Joe and Sarah grow closer. It’s like a bridge in a song. It doesn’t fit the upbeat of the rest of the tune but it has to be there or else the song wouldn’t work. Theoretically we find this moment in the “second act” if we’re still believing in the three-act-structure.

The amazing Emily Blunt as Sarah

Joe and Sarah’s relationship is really unnecessary, but without spoiling the film, is needed to make the ending that extra more powerful. Maybe not to the film admirer who would be disappointed by the fizzled ending, but generic audiences thrive on that stuff. What I will tell you is the ending is quite high impact, and the special effects do that extra justice – especially when the initial TK viewings seem corny.

In the end, this film holds solid performances from Gordon-Levitt, Willis, Blunt and [particularly] Gagnon. The film itself will leave you wanting more, and questioning the future – it is sci-fi at the genre’s best.