Bruce Willis as Old Joe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe in Looper
Published: 27 September, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
Directed by Rian Johnson
Rating: 4 Out Of 5 Stars
SINCE HG Wells penned The Time Traveller, the concept of being able to zip between eras has fascinated writers. It means directors today trying to squeeze mileage out of a basic theme we’ve long grown used to must find new uses for being able to head back and forth.
Director Rian Johnson has come up with a faintly ridiculous idea about what you could use time travel for in this film, but backed by super performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, the holes in the plot of this glossy action thriller barely register.
We meet Joe (Gordon-Levitt) a hired gun whose job is to stand in a field in Kansas with a blunderbuss and when a time-travelling baddie appears, to pull the trigger and dispose of the body.
As a gravelly voiceover explains at the start of the film (and a lecture to explain it all is needed to begin with), it’s 2044 and time travel hasn’t yet been invented; but we learn 30 years hence that it has.
Rather than use it go back in time and see Shakespeare first hand, stop the massacre of Native Americans or give Darwin a nudge in the right direction, we learn time travel is basically utilised by a criminal organisation who bump off those they don’t like by sending them back in time and then employing current day assassins to shoot them, thus eliminating a body to dispose of.
But there is a twist: the assassins, known as Loopers, have to kill whoever appears in front of them – even if that target is your older self. And being a Looper means at one point your time will come, as they kill Loopers eventually to protect their scam.
When today’s Joe is suddenly faced with one from the future, things get messy.
One of the strong points of this film is the Americana vibe. Scenes in diners and wood-clap farmsteads, horizons as far as the eye can see, and a Western-style gunslinging anti-hero means the references in these films stack up.
The futurescape here has all the bad stuff we see in Blade Runner but none of the futuristic good bits.
The best gadgets seem to be hovering motorbikes – but they break down with horrid regularity and belch fumes.
Drug abuse and inhumanity to one another are the calling cards of this world. No one seems to give two hoots about each other as bad driving cclaims lives, big guns are waved about, and drugs help the population escape on a daily basis.
It does suffer somewhat from the fact that we’ve had plenty of sci-fi films banging on about time travel and none have really squared the circle regarding how the thing works – if the you from the future comes back to meet the you from the past, what happens?
Then there is the lack of originality in places. This borrows heavily from other plots, namely The Terminator series, and they borrow other trinkets from sci-fi tales that means at times you feel like you can see into the future and predict the ending.
But no matter. It’s classy enough to make the rough edges OK, and has enough tension to keep your attention, too.