Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis go toe to toe in Rian Johnson’s sci-fi action thriller Looper where assassins kill people sent back from the future for monetary gain.
Time travel is a sticky subject, especially when confronted in movies. There’s always plot holes to be grappled with as well as the ifs and the buts that come from the audience as soon as the credits roll. Looper manages the nigh impossible and surpasses such problems; Bruce Willis even tackles such trivialities head on. In brushing the nitty gritty workings of time travel aside the film manages to focus on its storyline rather than getting bogged down in the hows and whys.
So to the story; the main events of the film happen in the near future. Thirty years from then time travel has been invented and subsequently outlawed. As with anything, the invention has attracted the destitute; criminals from the future send people back to the past for an easy assassination. Said assassins are called Loopers and, though held in high esteem, pay a price for their handy work. One day the person at the other end of their gun will be their future selves.
The main crux of the story is relatively simple (as far as killing your future self and the ramifications that holds can be, anyway). What complicates matters is the emotion conveyed by both Joes. Young Joe (JGL) is a drug riddled murderer with money on the mind. Old Joe (Willis) is young Joe but with thirty years more experience and a doting affection for a future wife. This love is what sets the two apart and causes most of the friction between them; one wants the other dead, whilst the other wants to put a stop to the whole fiasco.
Here enters a further subplot – without giving too much of the story away, Willis’s Joe is on a mission to find someone in the past to cancel out atrocities in the future. This somehow, and rather ingeniously, works Emily Blunt and the brilliant Pierce Gagnon into the proceedings. Tensions mount and you’re never quite sure which way things are going to play out.
As well as time travel, Looper also utilises body horror to great effect. We get a gory representation of how badly things can go if you miss your target whilst the newly discovered ‘TK’ strain, whilst initially seeming to be an odd addition to the otherwise faithful construction of a future world, offers some of the film’s more shocking moments.
What seems to be the focus for most people is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s transformation for the film. Whilst he may not share many similarities with his counterpart in everyday life, here a combination of prosthetics and mannerisms help knit the two actors together. Whilst it may sometimes be slightly noticeable, mainly due to the fact that we know that that’s JGL underneath the make-up, the general effect is convincing.
Looper varies in pace throughout; high-octane action sequences are interspersed with meandering moments that build tension. What it does succeed in doing however is painting believable characters atop a sci-fi background that Phillip K. Dick would be proud of. Here the characters aren’t knowingly good, these are the sorts of characters that will expose their friends for financial gain, characters who will keep you guessing until the subtly played final act and characters who come together to create a refreshingly original piece of cinema.