Looper (2012) ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Rian Johnson’s Looper is like 2010’s Inception with the gore of Die Hard – a sci-fi action film that doesn’t shy away from physical violence or the abstract complexity of a fabricated existence. It’s lucky then that the leading men of these two films, Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, play the main characters (or character, if you’re getting technical about it).
Time travel has been invented by the year 2074 but is immediately outlawed, sending organised crime flying and making urban violence a daily affair. Futuristic tracking devices make it impossible for assassins to dispose of bodies secretly, and so future city slickers take it upon themselves to develop the strategy of ‘loopers’, those who deal with victims of assassination, in the past. They live the classy life – showgirls, nightclubs, flashy cars and drugs – but it all changes when looper Joe (played by Gordon-Levitt) encounters his future self (played by Willis), who has been sent back to 2044.
The urban scenes of 2044 are confronting – a dirty, disorganised, unrecognisable place high in crime and social disarray. It has the bustle of an Indian city with the dangerous alleyways of a Detroit or Chicago. Up against the messy futuristic lifestyle, the vast sweeping Kansan plains have survived – and they are Joe’s location for securing victims. The special effects are impressive and the dramatic images look great on the big screen. We’re left sitting in suspense for most of the film.
Emily Blunt’s character, Sara, is introduced halfway through although she plays a key part. (It’s a bit bizarre to hear a drawling southern accent in place of her usual British articulation.) It does take time for the film to set up but once it makes sense how the system works, it’s easy to suspend disbelief and get lost in the film. Pierce Gagnon as Cid, Sara’s child, is surprisingly mature. He delivers his lines with aggression and clarity, which makes the scenes a little uneasy considering he’s only 10 years old. In fact, there’s both a wickedness and likeability to almost all of the characters, a tempting mix.
Looper is one big chase and a question of who will win: the criminals, the authorities or the targeted. The plot weaves well together in its final moments with a poignant look at human relationships. It’s true that, although technology will forever be updated and crises aplenty, the nature of human beings doesn’t really change. I have to admit it’s a little bit of a tearjerker ending.