Time travel has been a science fiction staple for as long as the genre has existed and it feeds into the enjoyment of contemplating alternative realities and thinking about fate and free choice. This film really uses quite a few of the familiar time travel tropes but manages to use them to tell a pretty smart story which holds together until you start thinking about it and out come the straws and the diagrams.
This is set sometime in the near future in a world that is suckier and more corrupt than today and poverty and homelessness happens at third world levels in all the major cities. Loopers are hitmen for Abe (Jeff Daniels), a man from the future who works for powerful gangsters from the thirty years into the future after time travel has been invented and instantly outlawed. In the future some sort of advanced technology tagging has made disposing of bodies very difficult so they send the people they want rid of back in time with their hands tied and a bag over their head so that a Looper can kill them and dispose of the body. The plot needs this to be true so we’ll just have to accept it. We have this all explained to us by the main character Joe (Joseph Gordon Levitt) in a voiceover. The film doesn’t just tell us but shows us Joe gunning down several anonymous victims and trading in the silver bars placed on the bodies in the future as payment.
Joe is not a nice a guy. He and the other Loopers are self-centred short sighted dumb-asses who spend their money on drink, drugs, women and flashy cars. Joe also talks about how the Loopers are kept under contract until the day that the man they kill is their own future selves and they are released from their contracts to enjoy the several bars of gold that was sent back with their future selves knowing that in 30 years they will be killed by their younger selves.
If they fail to kill their future selves that is very bad and we get to see what happens when fellow Looper, and the closest Joe has to a friend, Seth (Paul Dano) turns up at Joe’s apartment wanting help hiding from Abe’s Gat men after he failed to kill his own future self. The Gat men are Abe’s enforcers who armed with Gatling guns while the Loopers use guns called blunderbusses because of their short range. This whole episode with Seth sets up how serious it will be when Joe meets future Joe and there’s an interesting use of Seth to catch future Seth which sets up the film’s ending.
Joe is out in the country waiting for his next hit and he’s still thinking about Seth. The time for the hit comes and goes and when the hit arrives several minutes late his face is not covered and he’s not tied up. Joe looks in his eyes and recognises it’s Future Joe (Bruce Willis). He also has bars of gold that he uses to deflect the shot from Joe then Future Joe knocks out him out by hitting him with a bar of gold and a punching him in the face. Future Joe escapes and Joe finds himself on the run from Abe’s Gat men.
We get to see a flashback of Future Joe’s life after he had his loop closed and learn that he’s got a plan to bring down some future evil villain called the Rainmaker and save the only woman he ever loved no matter the cost.
Joe arranges to meet Future Joe at a diner next to his kill site out in the country. He wants to get his life back and wants to kill Future Joe to do it. Future Joe depends on Joe’s continued existence yet Joe points out that the best way to save the woman he loves would be to kill Joe right now so he’d never meet her and put her in danger. The script hints heavily in the dialogue that the time travel plot shouldn’t get poked too much or its logic will unravel. Before they get down to deciding who should kill who Abe’s Gat men arrive and Future Joe has to run. Joe manages to tear a bit off Future’s Joe’s map. This full map has three target circled on it and one of these target is on the bit Joe has.
Joe knows Future Joe will be going there and so he decides to go there to wait for him. It turns out to be a farm occupied by a single mother Sara (Emily Blunt) and her young son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Because of the widespread poverty there are many vagrants and some are desperate enough that Sara keeps a load shotgun handy. Thinking Joe is one of them she shoots him wounding him in the arm. She realises he’s not a vagrant but the blunderbuss gives away that he‘s not someone to be trusted either. She drags him onto her porch where she can keep an eye on him.
Joe starts getting withdrawal from the drugs he constantly dripped into his eyes back in the city and Sara leaves him to recover, warning Cid to keep away from him. As time passes of course Sara’s mistrust softens and Joe starts to care about people other than himself, which gives him something to fight for against both Abe’s men and his future self.
I really did like this film and it does live up to the hype. Everything kind of holds together enough so I could ignore the paradoxes to enjoy later. It is totally believable that Joseph Gordon Levitt is a younger version of Bruce Willis but that is because two actors matched up their performances so well and not really because of the make-up job on Levitt. I had a little giggle at the fleeting glimpse of the intermediate stages of hair loss, especially the bit where Willis had a floppy comb-over
- Rotten Tomatoes
- Review (Blu-ray): LOOPER (2012) (jamesdmccallister.wordpress.com)
- Looper (wpladult.wordpress.com)