Time travel is tricky. You're dealing with a theoretical construct that can radically change the course of everything we know or will know in the future. Make the wrong move and you've destroyed the world. Looper plays fast and dangerous with this concept. In 2042, time travel does not exist. But it does exist in 2072. A powerful mob has emerged in the future using time travel as a way to eliminate people standing in their way. The executions are carried out by loopers, people in present day 2042 who are paid in thick silver blocks strapped to the back of their mark to shoot and kill at point blank range. If you receive a delivery of gold blocks, you have closed your loop: killed yourself from the future. If you fail to close your loop, you will be hunted down like an animal until your mistake is corrected.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to close the loop on Old Joe (Bruce Willis) after a large chunk of exposition. This sets off a fast speed sci-fi/action story that builds its suspense in quiet, two person scenes. Eventually, Joe sets up a stakeout for Old Joe at the farmhouse of Sara (Emily Blunt), a young woman who left the seedy nightlife populated by the high rolling loopers in the big city.
If there is a problem with Looper, it is the big block of exposition at the top. Yes, the rules of the universe need to be established or else the story would make no sense. It's just done through cliche nightlife montages and dull voice-overs. The actions--loopers doing their jobs, loopers discovering closed loops, loopers running from the mob--are far more effective at telling the story than monotone descriptions of all things looper.
If you can stick with the dry spell at the start, Looper turns into an odd but often clever sci-fi picture. Old Joe's story borrows much of its premise from Terminator, but is elevated by some of Bruce Willis' stronger work in years. He manages to bring a great sense of humanity to a man forced to take on an unthinkable task for self-preservation.
Even more effective is Joe's time at Sara's farm. Emily Blunt dominates the film with a strange spin on the mother in peril trope. She's only watching out for her son because he has no one else to care for him. She loves him and resents him at the same time. Yet, if anyone dares to step foot on her property, she will shoot them down without a moment of hesitation. Sara is tough and unsympathetic until the best plot twist in the film unfolds.
Looper is an enjoyable popcorn film. Unfortunately, it relies on many tired sci-fi and gangster film cliches to structure a story with many novel concepts. The film only comes alive when it steps away from the expected beats, but those experimental moments are rare.
Thoughts on Looper? I just found myself wanting more for most of the film. I enjoyed myself. I just think it didn't go far enough. What do you think? Sound off below.