I offer this capsule to alert you to a relative rarity – an intelligent science fiction film, which is not dressed up horror or merely action-adventure set in the future.
Looper started well in box office receipts since it opened ($43-million in 12 days). Normally, I would not give a damn, but I hope that Writer/Director Rian Johnson has additional great screenplays in him. If Looper makes money, the suits will greenlight another film for him.
Looper is a deadly serious, action/adventure film noir set in the near-future.
Expressed like that, it sounds like it could be crap, but it’s a highly intelligent and sure-footed tour-de-force, with a sympathetic killer. Actually two. The young one (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a drug addicted, self-involved, ruthless, and dishonorable wretch-with-a-conscience. The old one (Bruce Willis) is drug-free, mature, more outwardly focused—and still ruthless.
In 2077 time-travel is invented. Technology has made impossible the covert disposal of the dead, so organized crime has created assassins called “loopers.” The loopers live in the Midwest in 2044. His targets are similarly sent, at prearranged times, bound and hooded, along with payment in silver. The looper executes the target and incinerates the corpse. Eventually, if the looper survives until 2077, he is sent back to his 30-year-younger self to be executed, this earns payment in gold. The younger assassin then retires, having “closed the loop.”
This neat arrangement is spoiled when Gordon-Levitt fails to execute Willis, his older self. Both become targets of the crime organization, which sends a fixer and henchmen to do the job.
For reasons I won’t reveal, Levitt ends up at a farm inhabited by fetching Emily Blunt, who is adorned with a flat Midwestern accent, flannel workshirt, and a shotgun. Her shotgun is soon replaced by ardor—giving us a love interest integral to the plot. Unlike many action-adventure films in which women are gratuitous afterthoughts, Blunt is essential to the story. Also essential is her young son, Cid who may be integral to the world’s future.
Unlike the typical time-travel story, usually trampled by the weight of proliferating paradoxes, Looper ties up neatly. Rian Johnson should be proud.