Time travel has provided some of the most inventive scifi movie concepts in history. For me personally, two of my favourite movies involved time travel viz. 12 Monkeys and Back to the Future. Unfortunately, time travel as a concept can also be highly problematic and has ruined many a promising scifi movie – Star Trek: First Contact comes quickly to mind.
This was the challenge Rian Johnson’s Looper – an original scifi movie (increasingly endangered in modern times) – had to surmount in order to make an intriguing premise into a viable and complete celluloid tale. First things first, that interesting premise.
Time travel is invented by the year 2074 and, though immediately outlawed, is used by criminal organizations to send those they want killed into the past where they are killed by “loopers”, assassins paid with silver bars strapped to their targets. Joe, a looper, encounters himself when his older self is sent back in time to 2044.
Thankfully, Johnson has been able to flesh out this premise into a compelling tale that tackles many logical issues raised by the concept of time travel. Chief of which are these fundamental questions: -
1. Can you meet your past/future self?
2. Can you change the future?
3. If you could go back in time, would you kill the young Adolf Hitler?
Looper amazingly addressed all of the above in a manner that was entertaining and thought-provoking. In terms of meeting your part/future self, the story pits young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) against old Joe (Bruce Willis) as their lives collide due to time travel. Interestingly enough, both men – though technically the same person – could not be farther apart in their interests and agendas and act against each others’ purposes from the moment they meet.
Both men come across a young boy – Cid – who possesses the key to the future and whose very existence becomes a critical point of contention between the young and old Joes. Finally, young Joe makes a life-changing decision in order to stop the destructive cycle (he hopes) from continuing. Does young Joe succeed? The film does not provide that answer unfortunately, but that’s the essence of life isn’t it?
This ultimate achievement belongs to Johnson’s brilliant writing and direction but credit also to Gordon-Levitt (made up to look more like Willis), Willis, Pierce Gagnon (as Cid), Jeff Daniels (as Abe, gangster boss from the future), Emily Blunt (as Cid’s mom) and Noah Segan (as the unfortunate Kid Blue) for compelling performances.
Noteworthy moments to savor – the hover-bike, Johnson’s tribute to E.T., the Mao-adorned future currency, Bruce Willis doing what he does best and taking no prisoners, head-spinning narrative tricks, the ghastly mutilation of young/old Seth, the epic death of Gat Man Jesse and many others.
Suffice to say that with Looper, Rian Johnson has produced a scifi classic that will stand the test of time!
Looper is now showing in the cinemas.