by Sherry Lipp
If you could go back in time and change the course of your life, or of history, would you do it? Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, ponders these questions while offering a mind-bending thrill ride that constantly keeps you guessing. The film is sci-fi at its best. It’s thought provoking, fast-paced, and just ambiguous enough in its message to let the audience figure out for themselves how to feel about it. Gordon-Levitt and Willis as young and old versions of the same person offer excellent performances of a man literally at odds with himself.
Looper is best watched knowing as little as possible about the events that unfold during the course of the film. The film is full of twists and turns that are much more fun (and sometimes shocking) if you have no idea they are coming. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is an assassin hired by the mafia to do their dirty work. The people he kills are sent back in time from 30 years in the future. In Joe’s time, 2044, time-travel is not yet possible, but at some point in next 30 years it will be invented and subsequently outlawed by the government. Naturally it falls into the hands of organized crime, which uses it to conveniently kill and dispose of their enemies. Even the payments are sent back through time in the form of silver bars strapped to the backs of the hits. The catch to the whole system is that at some point the loop will be closed and the “looper” will be forced to assassinate their future self. Then they receive a big payout and have 30 years to live out their lives in style. As Joe says at one point, the loopers are not forward-thinking people.
Things go awry for Joe when his future self (Willis) escapes before he can be assassinated. Joe is faced with the wrath of the mafia, who has sent back a mob boss (Jeff Daniels) to control the operation. To put it mildly, they don’t like it when things don’t go as planned. Looper does a great job of packing a lot into its two hour running time. In a short amount of time we get to know both the young Joe and the old Joe pretty well. They are the same person, but at the same time they aren’t. It’s a great example of how a person’s outlook on life can change over the years, and how much our experiences influence that outlook. What if just one little difference in our past changed the course of the rest of our lives?
In addition to the story, one of the things I liked best about Looper was the not so futuristic setting. It feels so real because it was not overly stylized. Everything kind of looks the same. We don’t get to see what the average person’s life is like, but buildings, cars, and homes, all looked familiar. That being said there are a few cool futuristic things like a flying motorbike, and an ultra-sleek sports car. A futuristic drug, taken via an eye dropper, is also abused rampantly throughout the urban areas. Vagrancy is also apparently a big problem, indicating a bleak economic future. However, I liked how the house that Sara (Emily Blunt), a woman Joe forms an unlikely and uneasy relationship with, lives in is filled with quaint knickknacks and old furniture. It’s a sense of familiarity that adds to the uneasiness of the extraordinary situation Joe finds himself in.
Overall, I can’t recommend Looper more. It’s a great story and it is filled with great scenes and action sequences. It hits pretty hard emotionally and might leave you feeling conflicted during the course of the story. A scene that features both the young and old Joe hashing out their feelings is played perfectly. Gordon-Levitt does a great job of evoking every mannerism of Willis. He has the voice, the posture, and the facial expressions down pat. Apparently, his appearance has been digitally altered a bit to make his features match Willis, but even without that they are convincing as the same person. Looper ranks as one of my favorite films of the year.
Keep an eye out for our upcoming interview with Summer Qing, who plays a small but vital role in Looper as old Joe’s wife.