Joe is classified as a ''looper'', a job in which his employers use time travel to send men from the future to be killed into the past, where Joe can properly dispose of their bodies. However, to tie up loose ends and erase the evidence of his ever being a looper, Joe knows that one day his future self will be sent back for him to kill. When this day comes, Joe's future self is prepared and escapes, and the two men struggle separately in the past trying to evade capture and attempting to fulfill their own personal agendas.
Directed by: Rian Johnson
. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
, Bruce Willis
, Emily Blunt
, Paul Dano
, Noah Segan
, Piper Perabo
, Jeff Daniels
, Pierce Gagnon
, Qing Xu
, Tracie Thoms
, Frank Brennan
, Garret Dillahunt
, Nick Gomez
. Music by: Nathan Johnson
The time travel genre is nothing new to movies. It's been done brilliantly (The TerminatorBack to the Future12 Monkeys) and not so well (TimelineFreejackTime After Time). Even still, it's a story arc that offers so much potential for imaginative plots, filmmakers continue to come back to it again and again. Which is fine, providing it's done with some panache. Looper is yet another addition to that long traveled path to the time travel well and with a cool sounding premise, promises the same kind of dizzying concepts and brain muddling story arcs. At least that's what you expect. That it falls a bit short is really a surprise. And a shame.
Upon release, critics were literally creaming themselves and foaming at the mouth over this movie. There simply wasn't enough descriptive expletives in the dictionary to summarize how amazing this movie was meant to be. It was also not uncommon to hear it being compared with such esteemed company as The Matrix and Inception. While it's not as good as the former, and not as clever as the latter, it's still an okay -' if unremarkable - watch. Basically, take one-third Terminator, add a touch of 12 Monkeys and mix in some Carrie, and the result is Looper. And if that sounds a bit on the loopy side, that's because it is.
In the future, there is time travel, but as it's banned, the only people using it are criminals. They send back ex-colleagues and other targets to be executed in the past by 'Loopers' -' specialist executioners who incinerate the future garbage. Literally. So when a Looper called 'Joe' (Gordon Levitt -' in makeup) gets his latest victim, he's in for a huge shock when he discovers it's... himself. Or rather an older version of himself (Bruce Willis). And so begins a sometimes interesting, though occasionally confusing chasehunt as the younger Joe tries to zero in on his older self.
On the plus side, this has lots of really good ideas and interesting concepts in it: the younger version of Joe can send messages to his older self by cutting his instructions in his flesh; memories are simultaneously created and rendered vague by the actions of the younger iteration; and in one scene another older Looper - who escaped death earlier - starts to literally fall apart as his younger version systematically loses limbs though surgery performed by the bad guys who are financing all the Loopers. It's a scene that is slightly reminiscent of the Black Knight's demise in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, though much more grueling and shocking. Also, the makeup on Gordon Levitt is quite subtle and very effective: you actually believe both him and Bruce are the same person, albeit from different places in time. The future world looks unique enough without being completely alien and unfamiliar to us. So where does it all go wrong? About half way through...
For a movie with such an intriguing premise, promising every manner of head spinning older assassin against his younger self interactions, along with the customary shootouts and all the ensuing paradoxes resulting from traveling through time, this takes an abrupt turn that is so left-field you'll feel you stumbled into a different movie... It's almost like writer-director Rian Johnson ran out of plot after breezing through the first half and said: "Where else can I take this... I know: a farm where ... etc" This sudden turn is so out of sync, as to feel it doesn't belong in this movie. The clue is in one of the movie references mentioned above. It is a shame because it's fifty-per cent a very good movie.
The cast are very good too: Gordon Levitt doe a really good job as a younger Bruce, while Bruce himself starts off sympathetic but gradually changes into something that is both ruthless and quite monstrous. Emily Blunt also does good work as gun-toting farm owner. So if they're all that good, then where does this go wrong? Obviously, this movie probably looked brilliant on paper, but after execution, is decidedly lacking. What you're expecting is not what you get -' and not necessarily in a good way. You think you're going to get something dazzling - something with the intricacies of the brilliant Spanish time travel movie Timecrimes; but what you actually get -' at least for half of it - could easily be a standalone, and pretty pedestrian horror movie. Again, you wonder: why wasn't somebody standing at Johnson's typewriter with a cattle prod, telling him to come up with something better?
There's a lot of inconsistencies too: without being overly specific, stuff is done in this movie that makes no sense when you think about it after wards (heck, even the central premise makes no sense -' surely the criminals would be using time travel for something more ambitious than to just bump people off?). Also, there is a central antagonist that is meant to play such a huge part in ruining older Joe's life, older Joe wants to hunt him down; yet we never actually get around to meeting this evil doer, only a different, more vulnerable version of him.
Inconsistencies aside, you're left with a movie that somehow misses the mark despite the groundwork being laid for something really special. It's not as action packed and visionary as The Matrix, and not as clever as Inception. Maybe it's the type of movie that could get better on a re-watch -' i.e., once you're familiar with the direction it ends up going, it might actually be possible to end up liking it for what it is -' but as a first time viewing, the movie falls a bit flat and that's entirely a legacy of the final half.
Review by ben_horror from the Internet Movie Database.