Sci-fi loopy nuts are we, if you don’t like spoilers don’t blame me…
Set in the near future Looper is the story of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man with a gun, paid in silver bars to shoot dead those people sent back in time for assassination by a powerful criminal organisation. This is possible because although time travel has not been invented in Joe’s time (let’s call him Joe1, you’ll see why later) it has been invented about thirty years in his future and then quickly banned, but the criminal organisation still uses a time machine illegally to send people back to be killed by ‘loopers’… They are so called because when their employment is terminated their future selfs are sent back in time to be killed by them – thus tying up loose ends and closing the loop. With me so far? Good, because it is as simple as that until future Joe (Joe2) (Bruce Willis) avoids getting shot after being sent back for assasination by Joe1 and then decides to try and find and kill the ten year old version of the man who will become the evil head of the criminal organisation called the Rainmaker. This is because Joe2 holds the Rainmaker responsible for his wife’s death.
This plot point can be compared to Terminator 2 where the T2000 is sent back to kill John Connor as an angsty teenager, although Joe2 initially appears to be a good guy and the Rainmaker a bad guy. I say initially because it soon becomes apparant that Joe2 is the villain of the piece and that the 10yr old boy is an innocent. Interestingly where Joe1 starts off as a bit of a douchbag and then comes good, the opposite could be said of Joe2; a clean version of Joe1 who has changed his life for the better and then having been forced back into a world he left behind he descends into the role of a cold hearted child killer in his attempt to change the future. The rainmaker can only be narrowed down to one of three children and so two are killed before the final showdown on Emily Blunt’s farm.
Joe1 initially wants Joe2 dead so he can carry on working for the criminals, keep earning his silver and living his drug fueled life. Although he starts having second thoughts about his life after selling out his best friend and after meeting Blunt and the boy. Joe1 then decides to protect the boy from Joe2.
It is the moral turmoil of both versions of Joe which make Looper a very interesting film. The film is less about clever special effects and technological predictions (although the film contains both) and more about three dimensional characters. In comparison to the other two films I have recently seen at the cinema, Prometheus and Total Recall, this is by far the best sci-fi film because it concentrates on plot and character development more than trying to impress with whizzy special effects and maybe because I did not go into the cinema with any great expectations. Pretty much all the characters, not just the three mains, are well rounded in that you believe they have a history even though in some cases you are not privy to extensive back stories and the three main roles are well acted by Gordon-Levitt, Willis and Blunt.
The technological predictions were subtle and not too far-fetched (except perhaps for the Star Warsy hover bikes, which were about as subtle as a brick (Brick coincidentally is a marmite film also written by Rian Johnson which I loved and everyone else hated) and seemed to appear a little out of place in near-future-land – why hover-bikes, but no hover-cars? I found myself wondering). The special effects are a little weak around the bikes, but very good when it came to the cityscapes and the effects of telekenisis.
With its telekenisis and focus on moral choices this film is similar to the stories of Philip K Dick. Anyone who follows this blog will know I am a big PKD fan and so I guess it is no surprise that I liked this film a lot.
I have two very minor critiscms. The finale is a little predictable in the context of ‘the hero’s journey’ when Joe1’s arc would be nothing without performing the selfless ultimate sacrifice to recieve his gift – that of changing the future for the better. This is a requirement of most hero tales which simply makes these tales work – other examples can be found in Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight Rises. The only other thing is that although the boy’s performance is very good the character is a little too Omen-esque for my liking, and I kept thinking a black dog was going to turn up on the farm. That’s really all I can think of as bad points.