Set in the year 2042, Looper follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), one of many specialised assassin known as Loopers who kill people sent back from the 30 years in the future by criminal organisations using illegal time travel. Things turn sour when one day Joe is faced with a familiar target – himself. He now has to go on the run from his present day employer, Abe (Jeff Daniels), as well as trying to hunt down his future self.
There have been many films which have explored the idea of time travel, playing around with the various different theories, but rarely has one pulled it off in such an original, imaginative way. Writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) continues to prove himself as one of the most unique voices working in film today, here creating a fully realised and meticulously crafted world that feels lived in and wholly believable. From the key words thrown around to describe various objects, people or tasks to flying motorbikes and futuristic drugs, it’s a fantastical universe infused with an air of realism. And in a simpler film the literal explanations, often via narration, might seem overdone or unnecessary but the world in which the film exists is so complex it’s entirely needed. It finds a perfect balance of laying out enough for the audience without over-explaining things.
This is a shining example of how a film can draw from the past (no pun intended) so that it feels influenced and part of the cinematic sci-fi canon as opposed to just stealing ideas or coming off as a sub-par attempt at emulation. Everything from The Terminator and The Matrix to Minority Report and (Levitt’s own) Inception are all clear influences but it’s less a case of spot the similarities and more its own beast with traces of the high watermark of cinematic sci-fi.
On paper the idea of Levitt and Willis playing the same person 30 years apart is just not convincing but it’s made so because the film plays things with such a straight face (not to mention some bizarre make-up). That’s not to say it doesn’t know how to have a laugh as there are plenty of knowing jokes sprinkled throughout the narrative but when it matters the film take its ideas, its action, its characters, itself as a whole seriously thus allowing the audience to buy into it all.
If all that wasn’t pleasing enough there’s also a strong emotional core to be found here, particularly in the storyline of Emily Blunt’s character. Not to give too much away but her strange relationship with Joe and how her son is the motivation for her actions, not to mention the performance of Blunt and Pierce Gagnon (one of the best child actors to come along in ages), adds emotional weight to an already weighty blockbuster.
It’s refreshing to see that something as smart as this can still be made on occasion in Hollywood. Looper provides the best of a lot of different worlds, blending clever ideas, cool visuals and genuinely exhilarating action into a sci-fi package that engages the senses as much as it does the intellect.
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Looper is released in UK cinemas on September 28th.