CAPSULE: In the year 2044 time travel has not yet been invented, but criminals from 2074 are sending back victims to 2044 to be killed by hit men. Loopers are the contract killers who have agreed to tie up loose ends for their masters, including killing the 2074 version of themselves, thirty years older but the same person. Are you confused? LOOPERS is a complex story that is too much focused on its action and whose ideas, though numerous, are not completely thought out. There is a lot to think about here and a lot of it is made of plot holes. Rian Johnson makes a loud, dark, highly stylized film that looks good but whose ideas do not really bear close examination. The film works better as a source for ideas than as a credible science fiction story. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
It is not as if science fiction films that play with time paradoxes and time travel are still a novelty. After superheroes and robots, time travel and paradoxes are the most common themes in science fiction films. We have had TIME CRIMES, the "Back to the Future" series, etc. Last year there was SOURCE CODE.
The year is 2044, and most of the world is in collapse mode. Organized crime seems to rule the cities with impunity. To make matters worse, some time before 2074 time travel will be invented and the criminal network, still powerful, is using 2044 as a dumping ground for inconvenient people. It trusses them up, sends them back in time to 2044 where hired killers execute them and destroy their bodies. The killers are called Loopers because they know that in thirty years they themselves will be sent back in order to be killed by their own younger selves, thereby closing the loop (what loop?). The rules say that loopers have to kill immediately whoever is sent back, even if it is the person they will age into.
Joseph "Joe" Simmons (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such killer. And sure enough, he is eventually asked to kill his later self, Joseph "Joe" Simmons (played by Bruce Willis). The rules are enforced by killer from the future Abe (Jeff Daniels), sent back from 2074 not to be murdered but to run the organization from 2044.
Now some questions immediately come to mind. Assuming you (a "you" from 2074) have the power to send people back in time, wouldn't such a time traveler be exceedingly dangerous to you? It would not take a lot of waving of butterfly wings to change your 2074 world (inadvertently or advertently) so that you never come to power. It might be one thing to go back in time yourself, but you would never want to send anyone else, no matter how friendly to you they appear. You would never send a proficient killer like Abe, since Abe would know whom to kill so that the power went to him. Come 2074, Abe would be El Gran Queso. In a world where time travel is possible everybody's most vulnerable part is his or her past. Just how Abe is controlled and his success measured from thirty years after the fact is never explained.
Also thrown into the mix is a second premise that much of society has suddenly discovered they have some limited telekinetic power. The second premise does not make the story any more credible. But (Pavel) Chekhov's Law says any mysterious psychic power shown in the first act will be exercised in a later act. The presence of widespread psychic powers is another idea thrown into the mix when one premise should have been enough to make a good story. While in some ways the script is polished and gives us some real characters to work with, the plot seem less original and more a mix of ideas from films like THE TERMINATOR and FIRE STARTER.
Incidentally another unexplained assumption seems to be that there is a way of communicating over distances by producing arm scars. And another is drugs taken as eye drops. Those assumptions mount up.
Writer/director Rian Johnson previously wrote and directed BRICK (2005), the nifty high school film noir story, and the whimsical THE BROTHERS BLOOM (2008). BRICK starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt who looked the age of a high school student at the time and has looked young in his films as recently as THE DARK KNIGHT RISES earlier this year. Now he looks older, but it is hard to tell because his face is made up crudely with androgynous face makeup, presumably to add prosthetics to make his face look a little more that that of Bruce Willis. The effect is almost to feminize his face. Nevertheless in a scene in which he sits at a table and confronts his older self they clearly cannot be the same person. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has no earlobes and Bruce Willis has normal earlobes. Admittedly the shape of the ears is where a lot of films fall down when having two actors play the same character. But little care was taken really to make the two look like the same person at different ages. And something was missing so they really did not feel like the same character either.
This is a big film, but not really an accomplished one. I am convinced that with some work LOOPER could have been a really good time travel story. But too often the script seems unnatural. There is some verbal explanation why the Bruce Willis Joe does not remember things learned by the Joseph Gordon-Levitt Joe. Some-hand waving in the script says that he would not remember these things until his younger self learns them. That sounds like it is a contrivance to make the plot work rather than a rule coming out of physics.
The photography seemed a little dark (or was projected that way at my theater). The caballero cowboy hats coming back into style in 2044 was a clever touch. But otherwise the grunge sets and the dark photography played the near future world in a minor key.
LOOPER has gotten a very good reception from the public. As of this writing 94% of the Rotten Tomatoes critics have given it a thumbs up and I am about to join them with mine, but mine is a weak thumbs up. It has some good characters. That in 2012 is a rarity in major science fiction films. But if a scriptwriter wants the viewer to think out the plot, he has to think out the plot even more. I rate LOOPER a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1276104/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/looper/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper