Time travel movies are a gamble: they either work or they don't.
Or they work well enough that you feel too dumb to figure out if they actually make sense.
Remember Twelve Monkeys? Man that film made me feel f***in' stupid back in the day...
So along comes Looper, a film which once again takes the "let's send Bruce Willis back in time" scenario and puts a brand new spin on it. This time, we follow Joseph Gordon-Levitt who plays a younger Willis whose job it is to kill whoever the mob (who have somehow gained control of time travel technology) sends back. One day, his older self is sent back by order of a mysterious mob boss known only as The Rainmaker who is closing all the "loops" for whatever reason (getting every "looper" to kill their older selves, basically). The lines between hero and villain get blurred as young Joe's mission turns out to be more righteous than older Joe's, which involves killing random children. Everyone has a reason for what they're doing but at the same time no one really knows what they're doing so...
Yeah, it's anti-hero: the movie.
I like that everything's not all black and white, though. It works really well here.
The film's first hour is impressive. Think Drive but in the near future. You see what Joe's life consists of day to day, what the routine is, and how you can get sucked into the life of a looper. It's an easy job, it pays well: you get why someone might pursue such a "career", no matter how shady it is. You just don't want to be the guy who screws up. You really don't. Paul Dano plays one of Joe's looper friends Seth and you get to see what happens if you choose to stray from the rules. He discovers that his older self has been sent back and instead of shooting him he lets him escape then runs to Joe's place and hides there. Joe is questioned by Jeff Daniels' mobster from the future, who is intimidating as hell, and in order to save his own ass, he caves. You then get a fantastic scene in which Seth is captured and they start cutting him up, hacking off limbs etc, which has a direct physical impact on his older self. It's pretty dark.
Then the film takes a different turn when Joe meets Emily Blunt's Sara, who turns out to be The Rainmaker's mother. Obviously, Joe falls for her and starts protecting her and her kid from... himself. I'm not sure why them having sex did not have any psychological impact on Bruce Willis' decision to pursue killing random kids but if I start talking about specifics, possible time-travel plot holes, I'll never be done. Anyway, the film really slows down when we get to Sara's farm, it's still fascinating but you start getting a feel for where the film is going, which you didn't before. It kind of settles into something more conventional, like a futuristic version The Omen or something. The film loses track of what made it so cool and mysterious early on little by little and by the end you'll be pretty lost.
Really? The future was saved by the power of love?
I'm over-simplifying it, obviously, but that's essentially it and, honestly, based on the film's brilliant first hour I expected something much deeper, more surprising and ultimately more rewarding. The film's ending isn't bad it's just not on the same level as the rest of the film, it belongs to a lesser sci-fi flick I think. It's a shame because Looper had the potential to really be one of the most groundbreaking science fiction films out there but as it stands it's just... good.
Not great, not bad: good.
It's got some fantastic moments, it looks cool and boasts terrific performances from Willis and Gordon-Levitt (not to mention Daniels and Dano). Looper sets up a unique world with unique rules and a challenging premise but sadly doesn't live up to it the whole way through. It's still well worth checking out though.
A good "time".