In the year 2074, time travel is not only possible, but also highly illegal and used solely by criminal organisations to dispose of their enemies without a trace. With the unwanted party apprehended, all they have to do is send them back thirty years and have a waiting assassin shoot them on the spot. It might seem like an easy job for the gunman in 2044, but it comes with a catch. Known as loopers, these men know that in order to prevent their future selves spilling the beans on time travel, at the end of their careers they will have to remove one final target – themselves. Close the loop, collect the pay-off and then enjoy life until you’re the man being sent back.
Just because they’re prepared to accept it, however, doesn’t mean their future selves will be equally as willing, and with our protagonist Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting resistance from his older counterpart (Bruce Willis), matters soon get complicated. With Old Joe determined to track down a future crime lord known only as The Rainmaker – a man whose death he believes will return him to 2074, able to live out the rest of his days in peace – his younger self must give chase if he’s to have any hope of collecting his retirement fund.
With writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) rarely being the sort to hold his influences too close to his chest, Looper is no exception. A time travelling sci-fi actioner, the film is – in part – a conceptual rewrite of The Terminator (1984), as a man delivered from the future attempts to hunt down a person whose death could prove crucial to his own fate. Yet with the absence of a machine war threatening humanity at large, the mission here is personal and its execution far more morally precarious.
Dark as the content gets, however, Johnson manages to balance the film with welcome doses of humour, the most enjoyable of which play with preconceptions of the genre, jokingly warning audiences not to over-think. Similarly, whilst some directors might squander screen time elaborating on the events that link young Joe to his future self, Johnson simply gets on with it; impressive prosthetics, great performances and a quick montage show us they are the same man, leaving the rest of the film free to focus on Joe’s unfurling future, instead of dwelling on his past.
Patrick has awarded Looper four Torches of Truth.