The film is set in the year 2042, and time travelling has not yet been invented. In the future when it is, it becomes outlawed and mobsters from the future use it illegally to send back their desired targets. ‘Loopers’ are those hit-men who kill the victims within seconds of their time travel, and then swiftly dispose of the bodies. Loopers are well paid and live a lifestyle of drugs and partying by night, committing the occasional hired murder during the day. The catch comes in the fact that one day, loopers will be sent a future version of themselves to kill, and they won’t know which of their hooded victims is themselves until after they have killed them. This is called “closing the loop” as the loopers than live an inevitable life hurtling towards a fate of being transported into the past to meet your end at your younger self’s hands, this seemingly endless cycle questions which parts of the lives are actually lived, and whether the older versions ever truly lived or were simply visions of what could have happened. The film touches on this theme just right, not attempting to over-explain unnecessary details but at the same time it doesn’t completely ignore the psychology behind time travel.
Looper tells an elaborate story, but writer/director Rian Johnson pulls us through it so convincingly that we are drawn into the story. He unravels plot points as he wants us to see them, enabling audiences to engage with the characters and the story at just the right pace. The performances are all strong, from Emily Bunt as mother to a unique child to Jeff Daniels as younger Joe's present day mob boss. Bruce Willis plays the role like so many of his roles, but with a little more emotionality, which helps in separating his character from Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Joe. The younger Joe lacks the sense of inevitability that Bruce Willis’ Joe knows, and contains less wisdom than his older counterpart. In this way the two performances are so different despite the fact that they are the same character, Bruce Willis’s Joe leads with an unwavering determination to erase his wife’s killer from the face of the Earth before he is even old enough to become a monster. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe is far more confused as to how he fits into any grander story, his motivations shifting between money and a sense of altruism.
An excellent thriller with a satisfying conclusion that will induce conversations about the film after leaving the theater, Looper is a stylistic and highly enjoyable film. Rian Johnson is bold in his ambitions to tell a time-travelling story like this one, but he pulls it off so smoothly we can’t help but enjoy it. Looper also touches on the philosophy and psychology of time-travel, not trying to over-explain in and thus ruin it- as the very idea of time travel to the past is so logically complex it can easily become convoluting in the plot of a thriller. Instead Looper asks questions that it only partially answers, forcing the audience to think about the possible outcomes. For example, if the older Joe can feel the physical pain Joe feels, does that mean that his memories become replaced as younger Joe makes new ones? Overall, Looper is an intriguing and inventive thriller that if you can, you should go see.