There haven’t been many sci-fi thrillers of late to write home about. O.K. Super 8 was not terrible, but that was a while ago. Nothing as rich or stark or dark as Blade Runner has shown up in a long time. We seem to prefer cuddly aliens or angst ridden ones that deserve our empathy, these days. Looper however is a different kind of film. A time travel film, a back from the future film.
The basic premise of this one hour and 58 minute R rated film (brief and partial female nudity, violence, intense scenes) is that time travel is possible in the year 2073, but it is illegal and entirely controlled by the Mob. And what they use it for is to send their ‘human garbage’ back to 2043, to a corn field in Kansas (no less) to have them terminated in the past. Those doing the terminating are called loopers, and when a looper in fact encounters a future version of himself sent back for termination, he is supposed to ‘close the loop’, and off his own future self, thereby signing his own death sentence in 30 years. In short, this film is about the ongoing cycle of violence in a brutal world, but it is also about finding a way to end the cycle of violence, as the dramatic conclusion of the film shows.
The acting in this film is top drawer— Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play the present and future versions of the same person, Joe the looper. Jeff Daniels plays the boss in the present in charge of the loopers, including Joe. Emily Blount plays a Kansas farm girl, desperately trying to survive, and protect and raise her son, Cid who is telekinetic (I’ll let you figure out what that entails), and there are some other fine performances in smaller parts by, among others, Paul Dano. This movie will remind some folk of the work of M. Night Shyamalan, perhaps especially The Sixth Sense and Signs. There is something of that sort of elemental strangeness to it, though it does not involve a supernatural or alien twist in this case.
One of the major juxtapositions in the film, besides the obvious future juxtaposed with the past, is the juxtaposition of the urban corrupt setting with the rural more human and humane setting of the corn fields of Kansas. Kansas, the idyllic land of Dorthy from whence she came and returned from Oz. While Sara is no Dorothy, she is trying to do the right thing by her child, there is a goodness in her and her household that distinguishes it from the grit and grim and gore of the corrupt city with it’s omnipresent Gats (men with guns working for the Mob), and houses of ill repute. In the world of the Mob its all about money, power, control, vengeance. But out in the country, its about love, and life, and living simply.
The real heart of this movie has to do with the fact that Joe just can’t manage to kill his future self when he comes back, and his future self is a man on a mission to kill the younger version of the rainmaker, since he was responsible for the death of old Joe’s wife. You get the picture— the endless cycle of reprisals and revenge. What can stop this vicious cycle? You’ll have to see the film to find out…. but here’s a clue. Think the Fifth Element, my all time favorite Bruce Willis film.
This film is interesting, and creative in various ways, but its definitely not a family film, nor a funny film (as the fifth element is), nor is it a classic. In tone it will remind you of say last years movie ‘Drive’ also about hit men.
It is hard to muster up a ton of empathy for any of the characters, except perhaps Sara, though she has plenty of flaws as well. If the essence of the future is killing and drug addiction and prostitution and life under the Mob who control time travel, this is not only a future I want nothing to do with. If I ever did get there, I would ask someone to send me back to the past and have a looper throw me for a loop. You get the picture.