Futuristic sci-fi time travel movies have been around for a long time, but generally rely on fancy, and expensive, special effects. It’s nice that Looper is relatively low budget… a reported 30 million… for a film like this. There are no spinning gadgets or spectacular tunnels of light. In fact, Looper is primarily character driven, with an intriguing story featuring some terrific performances.
Time travel has been invented and outlawed by 2072. The process is now used primarily for mob hits. The victim is transported back thirty years where he is greeted, and killed, by a hit man…a “looper.” And then disposed of. Granted, based on that one sentence, you can likely find plot holes big enough drive a truck through. But it is a plot device to further the story, so let’s not be too picky.
The fast-rising Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, the most proficient Looper. With supporting roles in The Dark Knight Rises, and Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln, this is a good opportunity for Gordon-Levitt to show his stuff in a lead role. British actress Emily Blunt, from The Devil Wears Prada, is fine as the reclusive Sara, who fears Joe, but is strongly attracted to him. Her son, Cid, is nicely played by ten-year-old Pierce Gagnon, in what is easily the best child performance since Danny Lloyd starred in The Shining. It’s also really good to see Jeff Daniels in a much-too-small role as the current-day bad guy Abe. Instead of playing affable or dumb, Daniels is an edgy foe who is both charming and extremely dangerous.
But best of all is Bruce Willis as the Joe from the future. When the mob wants to “close a loop,” they send back the Looper’s future self to get the whole connection eliminated. When Joe doesn’t kill the future Joe, all hell breaks loose, as happens in films like this. Willis really gets into the depth of his character and brings him to life in fine fashion. Bruce Willis seems to be stretching in his role choices lately, instead of opting for the next Die Hard sequel. If you saw him in Moonrise Kingdom, you’ll know what I mean. In Looper, he gives one of his best performances to date.
Writer-director Rian Johnson keeps things moving, although he should have given a little more thought to the unofficial rules of time travel before scripting. And you’ll be able to spot ideas lifted from James Cameron’s Terminator, and Brian DePalma’s The Fury, as well as a couple of other genre films. Those quibbles aside, Looper is a very acceptable and engaging action sci-fi film.
The R-rated Looper is now showing just about everywhere.