In a semi-dystopian future, time travel is controlled by mob syndicates. They use it to carry out untraceable murders by sending the victim back 30 years to be killed by specialised assassins called Loopers. When a Looper is to be retired the mob “close the loop” by sending his older self back as the target. When a shadowy figure in the future, known only as The Rainmaker, begins closing all the mob’s loops at once Joe (Levitt), faced with his future self, must not only ensure the loop is cosed but also determine the identity of The Rainmaker in the present and stop a destructive 30 year circle of violence.
Joseph Gordon Levitt can’t seem to put a foot wrong at the moment. After exceptional performances in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, and teamed with box office favourite Bruce Willis, he was perfectly positioned to propel Rian Johnson’s latest project into place as the last of the summer blockbusters. I have to admit, based on the trailer it certainly looks like it would fit that bill as a laboured but ill thought out time travel headfuck with lots of pretty CGI. Things didn’t look good. That is until you consider the last time Levitt and director Rian Johnson teamed up. If you read my movie recommendations, you’ll know I raved about Brick. The slick hard boiled detective story told in a modern day high school was a cult hit and certainly one of the most original movies ever made. This made Looper shoot to the top of my watch list and on Friday (opening night) I took the plunge.
As I expected from Johnson, Looper is much more than a stylish summer blockbuster. It has brains. Big ones. It handles the fragile time travel paradox more gracefully and succinctly than any other movie in the genre. Take Timecop’s “you can’t travel forward because the future hasn’t happened yet” and replace it with “you can’t travel forward because the technology doesn’t exist yet” and you get an idea of the movie’s simple, yet near infallible grasp of a potential sieve of plot holes.
What I didn’t expect, however, was that the trailer’s not-so-unique selling point of an assassin facing his future self is only a fragment of the plot. I can’t go into too much detail as it would be a crippling spoiler but mark my words, there is more to Looper than the trailer so much as hints at.
Like Brick, Looper took me completely by surprise. It is perfectly acted (at least the characters that really matter), perfectly shot and is the epitome of captivating. It deals with complicated subject matter but isn’t complicated. That’s the real triumph here. Johnson is a master story-teller. Left in the hands of other directors, Looper could have easily turned into a three and a half hour long trudge to a totally predictable climax. You say to yourself “Well, X is going to happen, obviously!” but then when it does, you still feel totally blind-sided. It is poetry. It isn’t just good, it’s Shawshank Redemption good. It’s Godfather Part II good. It’s best-time-travel-story-ever-told good.