Science fiction and time travel have been literary and cinematic bosom buddies forever. Difficult it is then to find a new ‘loop’ into the marriage of the two. Yet at times some intrepid filmmakers do find a new tale to the old twist.
“Looper” takes past ideas on time travel but makes a package interesting enough to reinvigorate science fiction cinema. And time travel.
In 2074, time travel has been invented but outlawed. It is used in the black market by those who find it hard to kill people and dispose bodies due to advanced tagging technology. They send victims back in 2044 where assassins called Loopers kill people. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such hit-man in 2044.
One day Joe gets his own future, older self (Bruce Wills) to kill. A moment’s hesitation leads the older Joe to escape thus creating a change in the present and thus the future. In trying to close the loop, with his employers chasing both him and his older self, he discovers something bigger than himself.
“Looper” is an extremely nuanced film that has multiple things working for it.
First is the element of science fiction. The loops in the story tangle your mind only for the film to very deftly and logically – that is, if you are watching closely – untangle all the elements.
It takes elements from many science fiction films, be it the classic “Terminator” series – essentially the story of an assassin from the future killing/protecting a child in the past – or the 2007 French film “Time Crimes”, which is again about the loop of crime created because of accidental time travel.
You can watch the film multiple times and unravel something new each time.
Secondly, it is an extremely well shot action thriller riding on a brilliantly written script by director Rian Johnson himself.
At another level, “Looper” is a musing about lost childhood, about kids who grow up without parents or grow up extremely poor and what and where it leads them to. It is a poignant meditation on cause and effect, of what the poet W.H. Auden said: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.”
The film also excels technically. Be it the minimalist scenes of a near-future world that blend in with the story instead of crying out for attention like in badly made sci-fi films, or the background score of Nathan Johnson and cinematography of Steve Yedlin.
Bruce Wills does what he does best. Yet, it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is a revelation. Levitt has grown as an actor over the years, migrating from TV to indie films to playing second fiddle in films like “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises”. Here he shines as a man on the run in fight with his own older self. Of particular delight is his ‘attempted’ impersonation of Bruce Wills, which is both accurate and hilarious for fans of the ageing actor.
It won’t be tough if the producers and directors want to make a sequel set in the ‘Looper’ universe. Another ’cause and effect’ story can easily be created, that could tackle other problems, and time ‘loops’.