Even with its centrally themed time paradox, Looper is an original and enjoyable science fiction film that relies on logic to dictate the narrative.

If you thought Inception went overboard (pun unintended) with the whole dream within a dream within a dream, don’t read any further. But like Inception and Memento before it, Looper is an intricately woven yarn that is very much a thinking man’s movie; at least for the most part. Luckily, unlike the aforementioned films, writer-director Rian Johnson doesn’t let it get to a point where we smell our own cerebral cortex cooking. Just when you raise a hand to scratch your head, the other hand snaps a finger in triumphant euphoria, as if solving a puzzle only moments before abandoning it.

The setup has Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Joe, a mafia assassin in the year 2044. His narration tells us that although time travel is yet to be invented, it exists thirty years in the future. However, its use is condemned by the government but adopted by criminal organizations as a means of “closing the loop”. This means ending an employee’s tenure by sending him to the present, where a younger “Looper” waits in an abandoned field with just a loaded shotgun. Loopers are paid handsomely, typically silver bars for each kill. When a Looper receives gold bars it is a cause for immediate celebration, but also means they have thirty years to live as they have just killed their future self thus closing the loop in the future. On one such contract, Joe is faced with killing his future self (Bruce Willis) but hesitates to pull the trigger. This much is known from prerelease trailers. What follows is a diabolical fight for survival where both Joes, though each unrelenting, must find and eliminate “The Rainmaker”, a person destined to become an ironfisted criminal mastermind responsible for closing all the loops.

This is a science-fiction movie that relies heavily on logic, but not necessarily the kind found in The Matrix. It’s as simple as basic computer programming, where the outcome of an action depends on a pre-determined set of rules. IF you do this, THEN that will happen; as a paradox, the premise in this film is very similar to the ‘Butterfly Effect’— a metaphysical theory where cause and effect play a fundamental role in a nonlinear state of progression. Simply put, Johnson’s forte is in telling a story where the end justifies the means. Given the centrally themed time paradox, it becomes all the more profound that however obscure the future may seem, it is the present that determines the outcome of that future. This grain of thought powers the final act where both Joes, each with opposing agendas, work towards preventing a cataclysmic chain of events. As such, a vital plot development is omitted from the trailers, owing to which, some viewers may find that the film begins and ends without cohesion. Without spoiling much I can say that a sub-plot involving genetic mutation takes center stage towards the end.

Although I have referred to other movies of similar ilk, I am happy to report that Looper is conceptually original — all the more so when every other recent movie is a sequel or a remake or a remake of a remake. Add to this a solid performance from Gordon-Levitt who has appeared in more interesting films this year than Tom Cruise. As a younger Bruce Willis, it might take a while to get used to his facial prosthetics, but I am willing to wager that Gordon-Levitt watched quite a few of the former’s movies to get the swagger right, complete with Willis’ iconic smirk and grunt. Willis himself is back in form with a much needed departure from some half-made films he has chosen to merely appear in over the last couple of years. Together they form a great team and amusingly play the same person. A special mention goes to Emily Blunt, who although has more screen time than necessary, makes a refreshing change as a straight-talking, shotgun-wielding Southerner with very little trace of her native British accent. Her character brings in a questionable romantic element, but is also linked to a vital plot development. Finally, kudos to Johnson for a good attempt at skillfully presenting a sci-fi film that also has a film noir look and feel despite its futuristic setting. There are moments when you wish Johnson’s script could have used Christopher Nolan’s finesse, but that would be asking for too much. À la dual-wielding guns ablaze, Bruce Willis also gets his clichéd moments, but let’s just say we would rather see Willis with a gun than a magic wand.

This is a recommended movie. You can either watch it now or risk watching it later — by this I mean your future self could be annoyed with your present self for not watching it sooner.

Rating: ★★★½☆


About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.