When illegal organisations in the year 2074 want to get rid of someone, they send them 30 years back in time to be killed by a Looper. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such Looper. Joe lives the high life, but knows that one day his loop will be closed, and he will end up killing his future self. What he doesn’t know, however, is that his future self may not simply accept his fate.
Writer Director Rian Johnson just refuses to be pigeonholed. He started his career with the dark thriller Brick, before moving on to the realm of comedy with The Brothers Bloom. Looper, a clever little time travel thriller, marks another change of tone for the director.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is quickly proving himself to be an actor to watch, and his performance in Looper is the backbone of the film. To begin with, Joe the younger is confident and calm, but as the film goes on, and his life unravels, Joe becomes less arrogant and a little softer. It is a credit to JGL that he can make the character’s transition almost invisible, until Joe’s final action in the film. Another credit to JGL is his ‘impersonation’ of Bruce Willis, who plays Joe the older. Not only did JGL spend hours in the make up chair to take on Willis’s eyes, chin and nose, but he must have sat at home watching Die Hard over and over again, as he has Willis down pat, from the walk to that trademark little smirk.
Bruce Willis has less to do, but it is obvious he is having fun playing the guy who is outside the law for once. His interactions with JGL are fantastic; the audience can almost see the memories forming in his head. Emily Blunt blends fierce and vulnerable in her role as Sara, and it is through Joe the younger’s interactions with her, and her young son Cid, that he begins to see the world outside of his own little bubble. Speaking of Cid, Pierce Gagnon is absolutely outstanding in the role. Gagnon manages to balance out the old soul of the character with his youngness, and create a character that the audience both loves and fears.
Rian Johnson throws aside the rules of time travel and, unlike many creators of time travel mythology, plays with and has fun with the paradoxes created by encountering yourself in the past. Messages are passed through scarring oneself, and there is little fear of ripping a hole in the space time continuum by having coffee with yourself in a diner. As well as this, Johnson has created a future that will be familiar to all of us. Not much has changed between now and 2044, except that technology has become a little more advanced, and some portions of the population have become telekinetic. Johnson directs with flair, and seems equally comfortable in the action scenes as the quiet ones. The dialogue is strong yet simple, and the themes of love and loss are ones that we are all familiar with.
Looper is a clever and interesting time travel action flick. Joseph Gordon-Levitt shines in the central role – even though his Bruce Willis face is a little disorientating – and Pierce Gagnon reminds us how excellent child performers can be. It feels as though Rian Johnson has channelled Phillip K. Dick and Back to the Future to create a dark, stylish and thrilling time travel adventure that is, curiously, full of hope.