Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Steve Yedlin
WRITER: Rian Johnson
MUSIC: Nathan Johnson
In writer and director Rian Johnson’s time-travel tale “Looper”, the filmmaker makes a movie about choices and consequences. One thing can change everything for the better or for the worst. This is also what great science-fiction is all about. The time travel stuff is cool, but it is only a vehicle to develop the characters and their story.
Joseph Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper in the year 2044. A Looper is a hitman for the mafia from the year 2074. Loopers in the film’s present are told that time travel is highly illegal in the future and it is also difficult to dispose of bodies tied to the mob. Therefore, the Loopers are an elaborate way to clean up any of the mafia’s dirty work.
When a Looper’s contract is up, their future selves from 2074 are sent back to be killed and the Looper is paid in gold and told to enjoy the next thirty years of their lives. If the future version of the Looper gets away, then the younger version is captured and the older version discovers how truly dangerous time travel can be. Usually, the future self has their heads bagged and the Looper does not know that he just killed himself until he sees the gold that is attached to the body.
Unfortunately for Joseph, when his future self (Bruce Willis) arrives, there is no bag and he can clearly see that he is meant to kill himself and retire. Since the older Joseph has no bag on his head, this is just enough of a distraction that young Joseph looses focus for a moment and old Joseph gets away. Young Joseph must now hunt himself down in order to make himself even with the mob so that he can retire with the rest of his stored silver, a Looper’s normal method of payment.
Now, this is what is mostly known from the trailers for the film. There is more to the story with unexpected twists and turns, but to describe them here would give too much away. Suffice it to say, there is a reason why old Joseph came through without a bag on his head and there is more than enough reason for why the young Joseph wants to get rid of him.
Again, this is a film that is about the characters. Gordon-Levitt was perfectly cast to play a younger version of Willis. The young actor fully immerses himself into the character. From the moment the audience first sees Gordon-Levitt playing the younger Joseph, he has the smirk, the scowl and the no-nonsense attitude Willis is known so well for without it feeling too much like a mere imitation.
Joseph is a tragic character on both ends of the timeline, though. Younger Joseph was brought in and trained as a Looper because of his past that sent him down the wrong path. The older Joseph has a certain tragic event that has led him back to his past. Willis’ version of the character is also an almost unforgivable character due to his actions, but they are not without reason.
Being that this is a time travel movie, though, it does suffer from some of the common flaws that time travel flicks tend to suffer from. There are still questions about time travel that still go unanswered. But it is true when the older Joseph says that it would take all day to explain and eventually, diagrams would have to be made.
The film can also drag a little bit in the middle. While this is not intended to be a fast paced movie, there were still some areas where it could have been tightened up a little bit more in order to get the plot going just a little bit faster. It’s not a massive complaint, but once the audience is fully aware of what is going on, they are waiting for the climactic third act to start.
Despite having a few of the same mind-boggling questions that most time travel movies have, this is a film about the characters and their choices. On this note, the film mostly succeeds due to a solid narrative and some powerful performances from the film’s lead actors.