“I don’t want to talk about time-travel s**t,” Bruce Willis yells at Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who both bear a strange a resemblance. “Because if we start, we’re going to be here all day, making diagrams with straws.” That’s usually the case with movies that occupy themselves with time travel. But just a few minutes into Rian Johnson’s pretzel-twisted Looper, which relies on story rather than logic, and it’s easy to rate it as one of the best movies of 2012, and one of the smartest sci-fi thrillers in years.
Possibly billed incorrectly as purely an action film, Looper probably works better as a sci-fi detective drama that avoids many of the usual clichés in exchange for an original story (remember those?). Think Terminator. Think Back to the Future. Think 12 Monkeys. Think Blade Runner. Think Inception. Think of them all combined and you’d get a peep-hole glimpse into the world of Looper, a guaranteed future cult hit that could easily fit into Christopher Nolan’s catalogue. The head-scratching Looper, which manages to sell the idea of time travel without making us roll our eyes at the implausibility, has the right combination for a winning formula – a great script, great direction, great performances and great visuals. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll already know all there is to know about the clever set-up.
In 2074, the mob disposes of its enemies by sending them back in time to the year 2044, where hired hit men, dubbed loopers, wait to assassinate them. Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a successful looper thriving in the criminal underground, armed with wit, charm and a retro-looking blunderbuss. Joe, who is incredibly low on morale, spends his time in bars doing drugs and sleeping with prostitutes. His life of leisure is suddenly interrupted when his future self appears at an assassination point. Old Joe played by Bruce Willis at his action-hero best, cleverly outsmarts him, knocking him out cold and venturing off on a dark mission to save his future wife. A game of cat and mouse ensues, punctuated by narrow escapes, shoot-outs and sharp dialogue, as Joe tracks down his older self.
It’s easy to get immersed into the film’s story thanks to the superior acting performances. Willis and Gordon-Levitt, with the aid of prosthetics, play two versions of the same character, with Levitt imitating Willis with near precision. It’s scary at first, his mannerisms, accent and tics all mimicked perfectly. Yet even still its Levitt’s performance and character that will find more appreciation from audiences. Jeff Daniels also delivers a memorable performance as Abe, the tired mob leader from the future and Emily Blunt fills in the lead female role convincingly.
While it might not be as transcendent as film’s like… say The Matrix, Looper deserves a place high on the list of great science fiction films and merits cult status for its exceptional storytelling.