A hitman who takes out victims from the future is forced on the run after being confronted with his future self. Time travel action thriller with Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Should you kill one innocent person right now if you know it will save countless lives in the future? And what if that person happens to be a child? This is the text-book Utilitarian dilemma at the heart of Looper, a time travelling action thriller from writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom).
Left to grapple with the ethics of this decision is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an orphaned, directionless junkie and professional 'looper' - a hitman who takes out inconvenient people sent back from the future by mobsters who can't be bothered to deal with the red tape of offing their victims themselves. Joe carries out his duties without question - that is until he finds himself face to face with his future self, in the form of a severely pissed off Bruce Willis who will stop at nothing to change the devastating events that will otherwise take place in 30 years' time. Cue a series of mind-scrambling paradoxes of the sort that make time travel movies like this so very enjoyable to watch.
As the junior star, it falls to Gordon-Levitt to emulate the ways of Mr. Willis and create a plausible sense that the two Joes are the same men at different ages - and he totally nails it (with a bit of help from some subtle prosthetics), right down to that smug little twinkle in the eye. He also gives Bruce a run for his money when it comes to the action scenes - of which there are plenty, often involving very bloody shootings with very big guns.
Looper eschews the usual sc-fi stylings in favour of a more naturalistic tone. This is not some high-contrast, graphic novel hyper-reality, rather a recognisably real world in which extraordinary things happen. While this pays off in terms of helping us to identify with the characters and the situations they find themselves in, the flipside is that some of the more futuristic elements (flying motorbikes, for example), look a bit out of place.
A few more time travel-based mind benders wouldn't have gone amiss, particularly as regards Jeff Daniels' intriguing and disconcertingly hippyish crime boss from the future. Who and where is his present self? Did Johnson (or perhaps his producers) think it would be too confusing for audiences to chuck another paradox into the mix?
But a couple of missed opportunities and minor quibbles aside, Looper's stimulating blend of action and ethics raises it a cut above your average Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster.
A thought-provoking, heart-pounding take on the applications and ethics of time travel which, oddly enough, doubles up as a lesson in the importance of good parenting.