By Andrew Home
Ever since the time-travel sub genre was redefined by the excellent Primer (2004), the onus has been on films of the sort to make sure their tangled webs of narrative remain as consistent as possible. Gone, it seems, are the days when films like The Terminator (1984) or Back To The Future (1985) could gleefully dance around the many gaping holes that there plots threw up. Looper is a joyful throwback in this regard: it’s an old fashioned, incredibly intelligent science fiction adventure that doesn’t worry itself with the kind of fastidious time-line management that Primer spent so long dwelling on. Old Joe (Bruce Willis) says it best when Young Joe (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) questions him about the mechanics of time travel: “It doesn’t fucking matter”!
Between 2044 and 2074 time travel is discovered and promptly made illegal because of the obvious ways in which it could ruin absolutely everything for absolutely everyone. It is only used by the world’s largest criminal organisations who use it to send people back in time so that they can be killed without a trace by hired killers called Loopers. One of these ‘Loopers’ is Joe. Joe is someone who loves the past: he collects vinyl records, dresses like James Dean and insists on driving flashy sports cars without the solar panels that adorn the rest of the populace’s cars.
This fetishism for the old fashioned is challenged when he is tasked with killing his older self (this is known as “closing the loop”). Old Joe’s not one to lie down easily though and manages to escape and promptly sets his sights on killing the evil, crime boss of the future (known as The Rainmaker) before he grows up, Terminator style. Young Joe is faced with a dilemma: either kill Old Joe and return his life to the luxury that he previously enjoyed or help him kill The Rainmaker to ensure the safety of the future.
Even though the action ramps up to slightly ludicrous heights towards the end, the sense of wonder at the world that writer/director Rian Johnson has created is not lost. This is sci-fi at its best: a smart film that has you asking questions but never once leaves you confused or bewildered. Even though the identity of The Rainmaker is fairly obvious, the ending still manages to twist and turn in completely unexpected, but wholly satisfying, ways.
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