Looper is a sci-fi film that leaves the audience picking at the seams in the fabric of reality. And what a liberating rush that is.
If you could go back in time, would you kill Hitler? And if you did, wouldn’t the act of doing so change history so dramatically that your birth might not ever even occur in the future? Wouldn’t you then not be able to go back and kill Hitler, given that you couldn’t have been born because your grandfather did or did not die/did or did not meet your grandmother/did or did not make love to her on a cold Wednesday morning/did or did not deliver the sperm that produced your mother, who in turn did or did not have the right egg fertilised by the right wiggling alabaster tadpole from the testicle of your father, who himself may or may not have been born so as to be horny at the right moment to ensure your conception?
Hopefully that paragraph has demonstrated how complicated it can be to talk about the idea of time travel. The film Looper delves deeply into this potentially confusing territory, but rather than trying to hammer out hard and fast temporal rules, it takes a free flowing approach that makes the plot much easier to digest. You can leave the brain-melting discussions for the pub afterwards.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a mob hit man living in the year 2044. His job is to execute anyone zapped back to him by criminal syndicates in 2074, by which point uni-directional time travel will have been mastered.
The impossibility of consequence-free murder in the future has made this complex approach to body disposal a necessity. Joe and his associates are known as Loopers because they must one day kill their own future selves; they know too much to be left alive, so the loop has to be closed.
Bruce Willis plays the 50-something version of Joe, whose return to the past and escape from his younger self initiates a series of events that culminates in a number of action scenes that are as thought-provoking as they are visceral.
The film’s dialogue is functional and unfussy, but also quite funny at times. Emily Blunt is surprisingly solid as the film’s only leading female character, putting on a convincing drawl to portray her lonely farm girl, while Jeff Daniels’ bearded mob boss is a little incongruous and never matches the menace that is implied by his status.
If Looper has a weak point, it is that the time travel plot sits somewhat uncomfortably alongside a few supernatural elements which just refuse to mesh. While these are entirely necessary for the direction of the narrative, it’s easy to imagine that writer/director Rian Johnson could have set a different course and still made good on his high concept premise. Perhaps in another life.
Looper is inventive, engaging and always ready to hit the audience with something unexpected. However implausible you find its plot, it cannot help but impregnate your mind with spiralling ideas and fantastical thoughts concerning mortality, morality and the multiverse.