Time-travel brain tease
Sci-fi action flick has split personality
By Tim Pompey 10/04/2012
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content
1 hr. 57 mins.
Early on in Looper, mob boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) has a great line. Talking to his hired "looper" assassin Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in his office, he says, "This time travel crap just fries your brain like an egg."
That's a good summation of this film - well written and quite thought provoking, but with a plot so dense it will make your head spin.
Of course, you could say that about any time-travel film. The twist here is that the same character, albeit young and old, is chasing himself in order to kill himself. Try to wrap your head around that premise.
As a viewer, you must decide: Do you want to have your brain fried? Do you like your story running in two different directions at the same time? Do you even care if time travel makes sense? If the answer is yes, yes and no, then odds are you will enjoy Looper.
The year is 2044. Joe works as a looper, a hired assassin who kills people from the future (2072). These folks are sent back in time to be wiped from history by a mob boss called the Rainman.
Joe is cold-blooded and efficient about this until one day a future version of himself appears. He's so surprised that, instead of his usual quick trigger, he hesitates. That's all the time old Joe (Bruce Willis) needs to make his escape. When young Joe realizes what he's done, he panics and begins to track him down and finish the job.
As it turns out, old Joe's return is no accident. In his future, the Rainman has killed his wife and condemned him to die at the hands of his young self. But old Joe has escaped and returned with the addresses of three children who could potentially be the Rainman. He plans to kill all three and hopes that will save his wife from death.
In the meantime, while pursuing his old self, young Joe accidentally stumbles onto one of these addresses, a Kansas farm owned by Sara (Emily Blunt), a single mother who lives alone with her son, Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Because young Joe knows that old Joe will eventually show up there, he decides to lie in wait and finish the job he started; that is, until he falls in love with Sara and transforms from assassin to protector.
There are moments when Looper's storyline goes haywire, but rest assured director Rian Johnson knows where he's going and doesn't mind that he's let a few basic rules about physics slide. Logic is not the point. What matters is the atmosphere in which time travel exists and the personal impact it has on both Joes.
True, Johnson has to tear the story in half in the middle to reach his destination. But it does eventually come back together with a thought provoking and very surprising ending. As it turns out, Johnson has been using time travel as a red herring. There's something else afoot. Remember Drew Barrymore in Firestarter?
Johnson has created an unusual sci-fi film that seems to have its film roots in 1950s style detective thrillers and previous time travel flicks like 12 Monkeys. Using his considerable talent as both a writer and director, he's decided to jump off the time travel cliff and see where he lands.