Back to the future

Time-travel adventure is beautifully shot and sure to delight

Do you feel lucky, punk? Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Supplied

When you make a time-travel movie, you are trying to do one of two things: make your audience think about paradoxes and physics and the like (see Primer), or make your audience say something along the lines of “Whoa, dude.”

With his third effort, Looper, director Rian Johnson has opted for the latter.

To be fair, time travel is a purely fictional device, so you can shape it to your needs, but if you really start to pick it apart, its ideas fold.

Fortunately for Looper, the movie itself is so good that you probably won’t notice - unless you’re a nitpicky nerd.

This is where I cough awkwardly and adjust my collar.

Looper takes place in 2044/2074, where we follow the character of Joe, who is a titular looper. The 2044 Joe is portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in creepy makeup, and Bruce Willis plays the 2074 Joe.

In 2074, time travel has been invented but outlawed, and its only use so far as we know is the mob dodging the people tracking mechanisms of the future when they need to disappear someone.

They throw the unlucky soul in a sinister-looking time machine orb in a burlap sack with a bag over their head, and they are zapped back to 2044 where Young Joe puts a hole in their chest.

The looper’s contract stipulates that when they have reached the end of their usefulness, their old self is sent back to be dispatched by their young self - what they call “closing the loop.”

Old Joe isn’t up for this because he’s found love, so he manages to incapacitate his captors and avoids getting shot.

Thus, he and Young Joe meet.

Although there is a lot more to the story, alas, my space here is limited, but it’s a testament to the film’s excellent pacing and nuance that I could happily write about the plot for the rest of this review.

The film is beautifully shot, with a careful mix between more classical filmmaking - mid-to-long shots, not cutting every five seconds - and some tasteful CGI and excellent action sequences.

It’s nice to watch a movie where the action scenes are clearly presented, not suffering from the now-ubiquitous action-scene jitters (I’m looking at you, Christopher Nolan).

If you can ignore a slightly off-putting makeup job and aren’t nerdily obsessed with time-travel paradoxes, Looper will delight.

Published in Volume 67, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 3, 2012)

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