Now this movie really caught me off guard. I was expecting more action and sci-fi, but I got more character and noir instead. Don’t get me wrong though, I sure as hell am not complaining.
Now before I get into the review itself, I feel the need to say this to all the people who have been disappointed by Looper. Almost every single one of them has complained about it’s handling of time travel and the problems that it presents. Well guess what bright sparks, just about every single movie that’s been about time travel has had major plot holes! Terminator? Plot holes. Back to the Future? Plot holes. The new Star Trek? Plot holes! Expecting a movie about time travel to not bring up questions and have issues with the story? Well, I don’t know what time you come from but in my time, all these movies have problems. What Looper does do in order to deal with these problems is give you the rules by which this universe functions. It also asks you to not think too much about it. It’s up to you to look at what’s been given to you, understand it, and then see how the story fits into those rules. And what I’ve described here doesn’t just describe sci-fi time travel movies, but can be applied to all films that are not firmly grounded in reality.
Now onto the review.
In the future, time travel has been discovered and outlawed. However, criminal organisations use time travel in order to get rid of anyone whose making business difficult. Unfortunately for these criminals, it’s become incredibly difficult to murder someone and get away with it. So they send their target with a bag over his head and body, to the past. Once the target arrives in the past, an assassin, known as a looper kills the target and disposes of the body. Part of the agreement with loopers is that they will occasionally have to “close the loop”. That is, their future self will be sent back to the past and killed so that there are no “loose ends”. Considering how much the loopers get paid, most of them are more than happy to do the deed. People have also begun to manifest telekinetic powers, or TK. In the “present” people are only just learning how to master it.
The story behind Looper is essentially one of a junkie looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Joe does his job, has sex with his favourite hooker that he’s in love with, and stashes some of his money away so that one he can day travel to France. Joe’s life is turned upside down when his target arrives and there’s no bag over his head. Joe looks at his target and realises it his future self. During this moment of hesitation, Future Joe (Bruce Willis) knocks him out and runs away. Joe is now being hunted for failing to close the loop, while Future Joe plans on setting things right for Joe and changing his own future as well.
Ok. There is one semi-legitimate complaint that I’m going to deal with up front. As many people have argued, Looper does feel a bit like two movies. On one hand, there’s the movie that you expect from the trailer, and the first part of the movie pretty much plays out like this. What people aren’t expecting is the second half, which, without giving anything away, tends to focus on people who have TK powers.
From the trailer you’d expect the plot to go something like this:
Joe, a looper, fails to kill Future Joe and close his loop. Future Joe escapes and now Joe must deal with the consequences. Future Joe realises this is a fuck-up and tries to help Joe by killing everyone who stands in his way.
[REALLY MINOR SPOILER AHEAD – HIGHLIGHT THE TEXT BELOW IF YOU WANT TO SEE IT]
What the plot actually is:
Joe, a looper, fails to kill Future Joe and close his loop. Future Joe escapes and tries to help Joe, while at the same time hunting for someone else from the present.
The trailer doesn’t give you any clues as to the fact that Future Joe actually has another target, and in this way it can be a bit misleading. However, it’s not as big a deal as some people are making it out to be. The plot still works, if you don’t waste your energy asking about the consequences of time travel, it still makes sense.
[END REALLY MINOR SPOILER]
Ok, now that’s out of the way, we can discuss all the things that make Looper pretty damn cool.
Looper is actually a film noir movie set in a somewhat science fiction world. What? It’s not an action sci-fi. Well, there’s plenty of action but it’s definitely more of a film noir movie. You have multiple troubled violent male leads, who have many flaws that they are trying to deal with. There’s a femme fatale (a seductive woman who will ultimately bring disaster to a man who becomes involved with her), which you don’t expect from the trailer. The main male characters have to make extremely difficult moral choices. There are several little touches (such as Joe’s old fashioned tastes) that point to a man that is disconnected from his own time. Again, another trait of a film noir protagonist. Even the poster highlights the fact that the main characters is haunted by his past! So yes, if you’re expecting Minority Report or I, Robot, you’re going to be horribly disappointed. I went into the movie with zero expectations, and as a result, this shift in tone from trailer to the movie didn’t bug me at all. I actually quite loved it!
Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels. Yeah, performances aren’t really a problem in this movie. There is one character, played by Noah Segan, that could have possibly been trimmed from the script, but it’s not a huge train smash having him around.
A few people have also complained about the differences between Joe and Future Joe, but in the context of the movie, Future Joe has been through a lot. Of course he’s going to be different from Joe!
The action is as awesome as you’d expect, and there are nice little moments of humour that are thrown in to help mix things up.
The effects are all good, although they definitely tend to be pretty sparse in the second half of the movie.
And lastly, the story makes sense if you don’t try to think about how things are affected before the beginning, or after the end. If you start asking questions about things that exist outside of these boundaries, you’re going to have problems. This is the case with every time travel movie. And I loved the ending! It really wasn’t what I was expecting.
Movie Rating: Leave any expectations the trailer may have given you at the door. Looper is an interesting film noir in a sci-fi setting. It’s packed with action, some intense violence, and really interesting and morally conflicted characters. The ending, like the rest of this movie, is great. Just please, for the love of all things holy, don’t try and figure out how time travel would/should affect things. Just go with it.