There is nothing particularly new about one of the time-honored traditions in science fictions in new SF thriller “Looper”, but this smart film cleverly finds good ways to deal with its subject, and I like it. Its law of causality is a little too shaky to explain as its collateral paradoxes are accumulated along the plot, but the movie pulls out an engaging drama from its conventional premise like pulling rabbit from hat, and its finale works with its inexorable time travel logics as everything is gathered together in the end.
It is 2044, and it seems that the American society is still going through a hard time probably due to the continuing economic depression. Poverty is seen everywhere around the streets in spite of notable technology advancement, and the city is infested with crime as the people are willing to do anything for their living. In case of Joe(Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he operates as a ‘looper’, whose job is killing the targets sent from 2074 by a gang organization he belongs to.
The time travel is not developed yet in 2044, but it becomes possible around in the future. Not so surprisingly, it is quickly banned probably due to lots of troubles ensuing from that, but gangsters illegally use time travel device to dispose the bodies, which are, according to the narration, impossible to eliminate due to some highly advanced tracking technique at that time point(I’d love to hear about that). What Joe and the other loopers have to do at their time point is simple; they wait at their remote work places when the time comes, shoot the bound and hooded targets suddenly appearing out of nowhere in front of them as scheduled, and then quickly get rid of the bodies.
They are usually paid with bars of silver strapped to the executed, but they know well that there will be the time when they are paid with bars of gold instead. This means that the contract is expired and the organization has sent looper’s older self to ‘close the loop’ for leaving no loose ends. The loopers are usually guys at dead ends with no hope(well, who would choose such an unpleasant job like that unless they have no choice?), but it is surely depressing for anyone to get the message that your time is limited even though the remaining time is 30 years. It is a long time, you know how fast the time flies.
As his fellow loopers getting gold bars one by one, Joe follows his work schedule as usual. He waits on the field outside the city, does his job with no mistake, and spends some time at a restaurant nearby. But, on one day, an unexpected thing happens. This time, a guy is sent without a hood on his head, and it is none other than his older self(Bruce Willis), who manages to get away from his younger self as Joe is flabbergasted by this surprise. Because he fails to do his job, Joe soon finds himself chased by the organization, and he must close his loop as soon as possible for saving his position.
The movie dutifully deals with the paradoxes and contradictions in time travel as Joe tries to solve his problem. There is a scene where Joe and older Joe have a private conversation, and their situation is interesting. Older Joe is determine to do something to save his wife in the future regardless of what will happen to him ‘at present’ due to his breaking of the loop, but he cannot kill Joe because his existence depends on him. In case of Joe, it is more or less than committing suicide in advance, but at least he can live for 30 years – or can’t he?
Though the movie does not give us an entirely clear explanation about the mechanism behind its rather flexible timeline, the story gets more compelling as Joe tries to stop Older Joe while evading the henchmen from the organization lead by a volatile and impulsive guy named Kid Blue(Noah Segan). The interaction between present and future is a very familiar story element thanks to many other films about time travel, but the movie gives several nice touches to its conventions, such as how Joe summons his older self to a place for their talk.
Meanwhile, as a part of his plan to stop and kill his older self, Joe comes into the life of Sara(Emily Blunt), a young woman living with her young son in a farmhouse in the middle of the field. She does not trust him at first, but, of course, they gradually get close to each other as the time goes by, and that makes an interesting parallel with the poignancy in Older Joe’s struggle to preserve his precious memories with his wife, which can be affected by not only his actions but also his younger self’s actions. He wants to kill a younger self of the Rainmaker, the guy responsible for his wife’s death in the future, and it is quite possible that Sara’s young son is the Rainmaker. But can his murder justified for preventing the future which has not happened yet in 2044?
The actors bring considerable conviction to the story. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been steadily building his career with the series of critically acclaimed films, and he scores again with a dependable performance in spite of wearing a little too awkward prosthetic makeup for resembling his co-star. Bruce Willis brings dramatic weight and pathos to Gordon-Levitt’s older alter ego, so you can see that Older Joe is someone not easy to be stopped even though he can be killed. While Emily Blunt is a warm presence in the story as a strong-willed woman with some secret, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels are also good as the underworld members in the story. Dano is neurotic as Joe’s fellow looper who gets frantic about his own messy circumstance, and Jeff Daniels is restrained as a crime lord who prefers reasonable persuasion rather than unnecessary violence when he has to take care of his business matters.
The director/writer Rian Johnson made an impressive debut with his first film “Brick” in 2005. That was an amusing combination between high school teenager drama and crime drama wrapped in film noir style, and, again, Johnson shows that he is a talented storyteller good at playing with genres. While it does not break any new ground in its genre, “Looper” knows how to handle and sticks to its rules, and it brings out its surprise from the story even when we think it is predictable. I still think its logics feel a bit murky, but let’s say the movie somehow finds good loopholes and it succeeds nicely while entertaining me.