I went into Looper expecting an action movie centered around time-travel. What I got was an exploration of human ego, destiny, and sacrifice. I am pleased that it was the latter.
Looper is a story about the future. In the year 2074, time-travel has been invented, and quickly outlawed. Because of technology available at the time, there’s no effective way to make a body “disappear,” except to send the person back, alive, 30 years into the past.
Upon their return to the year 2044, they are greeted by a Looper, a man who shoots them point-blank with a Blunderbuss. A quick trip to an incinerator later, and you have disposed of the body of someone who’s going to live another 30 years.
For every body dispatched, the Looper gets bars of silver as payment, and it’s a good enough living. However, being a Looper comes with a very grisly severance package. The last person a Looper kills is their future selves, with a stack of gold strapped to their back as payment.
Our attention focuses on Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the Dark Knight Rises), a Looper who grimly acknowledges that Loopers aren’t particularly “forward-thinking individuals.” He’s been a Looper for some years, but something’s changing. Lately, Loopers have been “closing their loop” at an alarming rate. Rumor has it that the criminal world has been overtaken by a man called “the Rainmaker” and that this man is hunting down the remaining Loopers in the future and sending them back to die.
And they WILL die. A Looper knows that the only thing worse than killing yourself is failing to do so. This is illustrated graphically, and it serves as an explanation for how the future Looper is affected by injuries sustained by their current selves.
So Joe goes to the field just like any other day, but this time he recognizes his victim: it’s his turn. Played by Bruce Willis (Red, the Expendables 2), Old Joe is not ready to die. Perhaps equipped with foresight, he overpowers Joe and escapes, leaving his loop open.
Now Joe is being pursued by the mob, who want his loop closed at any cost. At the same time, Old Joe appears to be on a mission to do more than survive; and his and Young Joe’s actions may alter the course of history forever.
For me, the story is a fascinating look into the ego. Instead of using the Joe-Old Joe relationship as a buddy-buddy action dynamic, it goes in a very different direction. Rather, we get a great exploration into what it would truly mean to meet our future selves. In point-of-fact, in many ways Joe refuses to acknowledge Old Joe as himself. He is not bound to the course of events that his older self says he experienced. He truly believes that his life is his own, and if that’s the case; does he owe it to a guy sent back in time to set things right for a life that’s already been lived? Is Old Joe’s idea of happiness and walking off into the sunset what he even wants? This is human ego. Confronted with ourselves, do we even want to know the future? Can they tell us what we want, do they know us; is it arrogant of them to assume they do?
This is not to say that it’s without action. You certainly get your daily recommended dose of gunfights, explosions and special effects. It’s not as visceral as Kill Bill, but you definitely get a body count. You also get a real dystopian view of the future. Phones that are basically a sheet of glass is offset by the misery of a wounded infrastructure; we see that society is both advanced and decaying at the same time. It’s like a technology sweet tooth that has rotted the future to its core. It’s truly striking.
Anchored in this future-flick are some fantastic performances. Gordon-Levitt and Willis deliver as expected, and I was pleasantly surprised by Emily Blunt (the Five-Year Engagement, the Adjustment Bureau), showing some major chops for a film that’s an obvious change of pace for her. This film left me overall quite satisfied, and I expect it to hold up well to multiple viewings.
OVERALL RATING: 8
Check out Looper at the North Pointe Cinemas in Warsaw. The weekday showtime is 6:15 p.m.