by Larae Malooly
“Thirty years from now is yesterday”, Old Joe tells his younger self cryptically from across the table of a remote American Midwest diner. Old Joe and Young Joe sit face to face, thirty years apart but eating the same steak and eggs. “I can remember everything you do after you do it.”
The man-versus-self conflict is usually an internal one. But Looper makes it quite literal, spicing up science fiction with a hint of mafia criminality that rivals a time-travelling thug against his future self. Yet director Rian Johnson (Brick, 2005 and Brothers Bloom, 2008) successfully delivers science fiction that is not self-absorbed like Inception nor too Star-Trekish.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a ‘looper’ hired to kill targets from the future sent back in time by crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels). But a simple whack becomes a struggle between free will and destiny when Joe is confronted by Joe as his older self (Bruce Willis).
Set in Kansas City in 2044, the future reveals grimy cars turned hastily into solar-powered wrecks because of economic crisis. Occasional hoverbikes and hover crop dusters enter some scenes. But other than that, the sci-fi element serves only to cleverly enhance the storyline without blatantly taking over the film.
Gordon-Levitt is neither a terribly convincing hitman nor a convincing younger version of Bruce Willis, although his portrayal reminds me of Willis’ character in 12 Monkeys. Intriguingly, to match more of Willis’ features, Gordon-Levitt was fitted with a nosepiece, an upper lip and lower lip, a vacuum foam plastic piece to pull back the ears, a small hairpiece on the eyebrows, and coloured contact lenses.
The technology of time travel interestingly serves to explore greater levels of choice and free will. Johnson plays with this power to give Joe the choice to change the future of organised crime. Looper’s rapid fire dialogue is in cadence with intense action, as if to bend time and possibilities also in the viewer’s mind.
What makes this film different from similar scripts like Time Cop or Minority Report is that it deals with the hero’s own existence and morality, issues that even time travel can’t solve. Looper can satisfy both classic sci-fi fans and modern viewers looking for a good thriller.