Looper toes the line between a complex science fiction film and an accessible fusion of genres. It does this well in parts, but the main strength of the film are those moments in which the audience has to pause and think. Occasionally, however, the film slides into a mode in which it over-explains, which ultimately downplays the clever science fiction plot that should have been much stronger.
The film is set in the not too distant future. Older cars have been visibly modified to use a sort of fuel cell system, people with telekinetic mutations hover coins as a way to hit on women, and there is a large portion of the population who live on the streets due to their rampant drug use. It’s a noir science fiction film, a bit like BladeRunner in its aesthetic. On top of this backdrop exist the Loopers, hit men who kill marks sent back to them from the future. Eventually every Looper must face his or her own demise. Quite literally, in fact. The mobsters of the future like to tie everything up in a bow by tracking down the ex-loopers and sending them back to be killed by themselves. Thus, the loop has been ‘closed,’ and they can retire and live a life of their choosing until the mobsters decide to track you down and send you to be killed. Of course, Joe (Joseph Gorden-Levitt), a looper, finds himself in this scenario, but he hesitates and lets his older self (Bruce Willis) gets away. It’s an impressive premise, but like I mentioned, the film tends to over-explain. The voice over is employed here as a way to explain the premise in a way that the majority of the audience will understand. However, this is not needed. Premises like this one can easily be explained visually. The filmmakers probably felt pressure to make the film more accessible and easily understood, so they panicked. If they had done away with those voice overs and had favored the visual approach, it would have made the film slightly longer, yes, but it would have been a much more cerebral experience. That, in my opinion, is always favorable over a less involved experience, because it engages the audience members’ minds. It makes us unable to sit drooling in our chairs, merely taking it all in, and instead strives for an experience that requires multiple viewings and conversations with fellow filmgoers after the movie.
The script, the dialogue, and the characters are believable and solid. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an impressive younger version of Bruce Willis thanks to some subtle makeup. Occasionally it does look a little unnatural, and I felt myself paying quite a lot of attention to his lips, which seem to be just a shade too dark and a bit too plastic. It probably would have been best to have only altered his nose and leave the rest up to the audience’s imaginations. Nevertheless, the performances are good, especially on the part of Emily Blunt. Her character is not introduced until more than halfway through the film, but she presents a strong woman who has weaknesses but is very invested in the safety of her child… At least, that’s the best way to describe it without giving anything away!
Looper is a good, modern take on the much sought after theme of time travel and influencing one’s past and future. It breaks conventions in many ways, but occasionally finds itself trapped by them. There are multiple montages in the film, all of which were exceedingly clever and effective. These moments of editing brilliance, as well as film’s script and its premise, are the highlights of the film. If you are looking for a film that is both fun to watch and interesting, Looper is the way to go. If you are looking for a film that will blow your mind with its complex parallels and paradoxes, then you might want to rent Primer, as Looper doesn’t quite get there… However, it does come pretty close.
Art Direction: 8/10
“Film as Entertainment” Rating: 9/10
“Film as Art” Rating: 8/10