(MA) Roadshow DVD/BD, Digital Download
Sci-fi is a speculative look into an unknowable future. And this film’s future is one that I would not like to come to fruition.
Looper is set in 2044. It’s a bleak, industrialised version of our current situation where poverty, drugs and prostitution are rife.
In 2074, the film tells us, time travel has been invented and outlawed and so remains the tool of the underworld to eradicate its enemies.
In 2044 there exist people known as Loopers. They are paid by those in the future to receive and execute those sent back rendering them nonexistent in the future.
These opportunistic Loopers are paid handsomely for their wanton disregard for human life, with one caveat. When their future selves are sent back they are paid handsomely to kill themselves and then have 30 years to live out their lives.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such Looper. Like all Loopers, Joe has one job: at a specific time measured down to the second, he’ll shoot a hooded man who appears out of thin air.
In the first third of the film, Joe’s bleak nihilistic existence is played out in an endless stream of killing, partying and drug-taking until a friend’s loop is closed (the term given when you must kill your future self) and Joe’s motivation for his job is questioned by his boss.
When Joe’s older self (Bruce Willis) turns up as a target and he fails to carry out the hit both versions of Joe go on the run and try to affect their future — which involves single mother Sara (Emily Blunt), who owns the farm where the younger Joe hides out from his vengeance-seeking gang and Sara’s telekinetic son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).
Perhaps the most distressing thing about this film is its callous disregard for human life. Scenes set in 2044 are full of people living in the street, panhandling, drug taking and generally being treated like the refuse of society.
A subplot involving a gene mutation enabling telekinesis initially seems like it belongs in another film but is wound into the complex finale.
Time travel films do have their problems and, in one of the only humorous scenes in the film, this is addressed in a conversation between the younger and older Joes in a diner, where they admit it makes your head hurt.
Head notwithstanding, it’s the heart that hurts in this complex thriller. Can we truly be heading towards a society where compassion and empathy for each other don’t exist?
Blunt’s single mother gives the last third some well-needed heart and a glimmer of hope.
And a 30-year montage shows how Joe’s hard life on the run is softened by a redemptive romance only for memories to be eradicated slowly as he occupies the same space as his younger self.
While its visual effects (save those to make Gordon Levitt look more like Willis) are simple, Looper’s philosophy and worldview are much more complex. This is a ruthless and troubling tale that is told with economy, coldness and cruelty. There isn’t a character in the film that isn’t acting out of self-interest and greed. And life has a price — four bars of silver.
In the final frames of this film there is a glimmer of hope, and a climax that redeems its anti-hero, but I can’t recommend sitting through the hour and 57 minutes it takes to get there.