Looper Review

You ever had an idea in your head for so long that when you try and describe it to someone you miss out some parts?

Looper is the story of a man who sells his soul for silver and gold as a young man and finds he’s running out of time thirty years later.

It’s 2042 and Joe is a Looper; that is a hired gun who works for the mafia to help them tie up their loose ends from the future.

Even further into the future, mankind discovers how to go back in time.

But the consequences of this are too dangerous to meddle with so time travel quickly becomes outlawed.

Another thing that’s been outlawed in the future is murder.

Putting these two things together, the future mafia decide sending their enemies back in time to get whacked is the best way to get round killing people in the present.

And best of all, there’s no evidence.

The controls for time travel are still in its embryonic stages though, so you can only send someone back thirty years into the past to a specific place that can’t be altered.

Is everyone getting this so far?

So the future mafia send a gang back into the past to take care of all the hits they can’t commit in the future.

And the hired guns the mafia recruit in 2042, like Joe, are called loopers.

So Joe happily goes about his merry murdering way, not asking any questions about who the hogtied and sack-clothed men sent back in time are before blowing them away with a blunderbuss.

There is one catch to Joe’s career path though; to tie up all the loose ends from the future, a looper’s future self will one day be sent back in time for his younger self to kill.

With your “loop” sealed, you get paid off and can live the next thirty years of your life doing whatever you feel like with all your ill-gotten money before the day when you’re the old man being sent back to be killed.

Still keeping up at the back there?

When Joe’s future self-arrives sans sackcloth and gets the jump on his past self to right a supposed wrong from the future, it sets about a chain of events that will have consequences for everyone in the present and future.

As you may have already gathered, Looper is an essentially ludicrous premise from writer and director Rian Johnson.

Reunited with his leading man muse Joseph Gordon-Levitt from their earlier collaboration on the cult indie hit Brick, Johnson has been working on this script since 2005 and the scale of his idea is epic to say the least.

While most of what I’ve tried to briefly outline above sounds rather nonsensical, Johnson really does a decent job of making sense of this.

You can only applaud a writer and director who’s willing to take a chance with the scale and size of executing an idea like this, and Looper is highly entertaining, but it also feels like this idea’s been percolating in Johnson’s head for so long that he’s forgotten how fantastical a lot of this sounds to someone who’s not in his head

So there’s this “Rainmaker” character who’s briefly touched upon in the beginning, but turns out to be a major player as Looper’s story unfolds.

It’s only really at the end that I realised why this was, and that’s not a deliberate plot device by Johnson, so a lot of the time you don’t fully understand another character’s motivations in doing what they are.

And, as ever with films that touch upon time travel, there’s no real logic or rationale behind this idea.

“People can go back in time, get over it” is literally the soundbite Willis delivers as old Joe when he’s asked to explain this.

The so hot right now Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the younger version of our ambivalent antihero Joe, with some good and bad prosthetics making for a mixed facsimile of what a young Bruce Willis would have looked like, who plays the old Joe.

There’s one laugh out loud moment for all the wrong reasons as Johnson does away with any need to gradually show how Gordon-Levitt’s Joe becomes Willis in a montage of how he lives out his 30 years of retirement before the inevitable end.

And considering how well made and executed everything else is, this moment sticks out like a sore thumb.

But Looper is a very good watch and definitely one of those films to see at the cinema so you can appreciate all the great special effects.

It just feels like Johnson’s idea was in his head for so long that he didn’t quite execute his story of a futuristic hitman as well as he could have.

Jonathan Campbell

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September 2012
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