Time travel has been invented but banned by the Government and now used exclusively by criminal organisations to dispose of their unwanted bodies. They are sent back in time to be assassinated by ‘loopers’, headed by Abe (Jeff Daniels), who travelled back in time himself. When a looper’s contract is said to be done, his future self is sent for him to dispose of, leaving him with 30 years of life left. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays one such looper, and he runs into his future self (Bruce Willis), who isn’t all that interested in being killed, and manages to escape. Whilst Gordon-Levitt attempts to pursue him, Willis is attempting to locate the child version of The Rainmaker, the crime boss of the future. Emily Blunt plays a rural property owner and young mum quick to draw a shotgun on trespassers, Garret Dillahunt is a disarmingly polite henchman, Paul Dano is a screw-up pal of Gordon-Levitt’s, and Piper Perabo plays a hooker/stripper known to Gordon-Levitt/Willis.
With science-fiction movies, especially ones that incorporate time-travel, you’re either persuaded to go along for the ride, or you spend the entire time picking the film apart and/or mocking it (“In Time”, for instance, although not a time-travel film, simply didn’t make its futuristic conceit remotely convincing to me. Time isn’t money, I’m afraid). I mocked this 2012 film from writer-director Rian Johnson (“Brick”) big time for all of its length. All time-travel is bullshit, but often I’m persuaded to accept a film’s bullshit, usually because there’s some kind of internal logic or adherence to already accepted ‘laws’ of time-travel. This film breaks just about all of them, and in the case of the ‘butterfly effect’ tries to have a bet each way (Closing the ‘loop’ ain’t as easy as Mr. Johnson seems to think, there’s still many ‘butterfly effect’ related issues to contend with) by acknowledging it early on in a scene involving the Dano character, before botching/ignoring it at several other points.
The biggest thing I had a hard time swallowing was the notion that two versions of one person, a present self and a future self, could exist on the same plane of existence. Anyone who knows anything about the paradoxes in time-travel theory knows they can’t, and whilst I know I’m being silly for accepting several other kinds of bullshit but not this bullshit, all I can say is that this bullshit was every bit as unconvincing as the miscasting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as two different ages of the same person. The makeup department has gone out of its way to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt look even less like Bruce Willis than he already does, and believe me, Joseph Gordon-Levitt already looks nothing like Bruce Willis. Bravo, makeup team, you’ve achieved less than zero there. But I blame that mostly on the idiot casting director who has given the makeup department an impossible task from the get-go. Why not cast someone more believable in the first place? Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks more like Christian Bale or Timothy Hutton than he does Bruce Willis.
So practically nothing about this film worked for me, and I’m kinda shocked that some have called it not only a good science-fiction film, but a great one. It’s a truly silly, half thought-out idea for a film. I mean, if in the future we’ve worked out how to do time-travel, and we know that ‘loopers’ exist in the present, wouldn’t the people in the future who are set to be sent back to the present/past to be killed, have worked out a way around their predicament? And what kind of intellectually-challenged society knows how to invent time travel but has no idea how to dispose of a body in their present? I know it’s silly to want rules and consistencies with something fantastical, but you’d think someone would’ve found a way around this situation before now. And why would you put up with a system where YOU are responsible for killing your future self? People would surely be reluctant to kill themselves, right? Unless they were suicidal, so surely getting someone else to do the job would be far more productive.
The absolute worst scene in the film is a diner conversation between Gordon-Levitt and Willis that frankly makes no goddamn sense whatsoever: Gordon-Levitt basically tells Willis that he’s had his life already and should just hurry up and die. That’s you, you moron. I know the intent of the scene is to bring up smarty-pants intellectual ideas of self and identity etc., but it comes off here as incredibly silly that two versions of oneself would be arguing with one another about how one has already lived their life and why don’t you just die. You can’t be in two places at once, and certainly two different stages of yourself can’t be in the same place at once, and if they were, they wouldn’t act so callous towards...themselves. Wouldn’t what is going to happen to Bruce Willis’ character have already happened in some way or another? If Willis and Gordon-Levitt are two versions of the same person, wouldn’t their perspectives and understandings be far more in-sync? When you think about it, both Willis and Gordon-Levitt are being selfish, and Gordon-Levitt really shouldn’t be as antagonistic towards Willis. What would change in Gordon-Levitt’s situation whether he killed Willis or not? I get that killing his future self closes the loop but the only thing that would really matter is if he got caught by Jeff Daniels and his goons. So why don’t they team up, kill the bad guys, and both versions of the same guy can ride off into the sunset in the present. Yes, that’s stupid and nonsensical too, but not as stupid and nonsensical as what actually happens. And don’t even get me started on the kid with telekinetic powers, holy crap, it’s almost as bad as the idea that time travel would be used solely to send people back in time to be assassinated.
The film also looks horrible. The cinematography by Steve Yedlin is ugly, murky, and far too dark-looking. I’m also already beyond sick of lens flares. They look like blemishes on the screen, so fucking stop it! Emily Blunt is lovely and does a convincing Southern accent, but she’s no miracle worker, nor is the rock-solid Jeff Daniels. Garret Dillahunt also gives an interesting performance as a rather polite bad guy.
If it were a better movie, I might not have thought of such things (“Source Code” probably makes no goddamn sense either, but it entertained me, whilst the “Back to the Future” and “Terminator” films are probably the best examples of time travel films in my view), but I was out of this film three minutes into it. There’s the kernel of something good here, but the film takes the idea of time travel into a lot of uninteresting and unconvincing areas. If you can accept its own interpretation of the ‘rules’ of time-travel (and many would say that it only needs to conform to its own rules- I just found it silly from the get-go), you might tolerate the film more than I, but it’s also incredibly, fatally dull. No, I didn’t enjoy this one at all, and for sci-fi movies starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I much preferred “Inception”