In the not too distant future, specialised hitmen called Loopers assassinate people sent from the slightly more distant future, but when a Looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to kill his own future self (Bruce Willis) he is forced on the run from angry gangsters to prevent his older counterpart from altering the course of history for the worse.
This is really an oversimplification of the film, as it features some of the most well thought through science fiction and clever storytelling of recent years. The exposition of this potentially confusing concept is well dealt with, and the action kicks off almost immediately. There is a trade-off, as the film slows down for half an hour or so in the middle as the plot undergoes some essential development and Joe hangs out on a farm, but this pays off in bucket loads as the full potential of the film’s innovative premise is explored and it bursts to life again in the final act.
One of the most exceptional things about Looper is the performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who perfectly captures the mannerisms, facial expressions and voice of screen icon Bruce Willis as if he was auditioning for a Die Hard prequel, making the film instantly easy to buy into. He also masters Willis’s ability to create sympathy for conflicted characters as well as appearing simultaneously downtrodden and physically threatening. Along with his appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, Gordon-Levitt has secured his place as one of the most reliable leading men in Hollywood.
While many of Looper’s science fiction themes have been addressed elsewhere, never before have they been brought together in such a neat and gripping package. The future that has been created is a kind of dystopian, almost lawless cesspool reflecting the decline of the USA and the movement of power eastwards.
The attention to detail is high, and the potentially confusing time travel plot device is handled well without being over explained, with plot holes kept to a minimum. In many ways Looper feels like the Terminator franchise updated for the 21st century, with mobsters in place of machines.
It can proudly take its place in the pantheon of superb recent science fiction films, such as Source Code, District 9 and Inception, that refuse to simplify themselves to chase the broadest possible audience, and aren’t afraid to make you think.
Thoughtful, action-packed, occasionally shocking and consistently engaging, Looper looks set to become one of this year’s most memorable films.