Looper is not for Wimps!

If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like explicit sexual content in your movies, don’t watch Looper.

If you are the kind of person who is easily repulsed by violence, blood, and gore, don’t watch Looper.

If you are the kind of person who goes to movies to “turn my brain off”, who thinks the Michael Bay Transformers films are “The best films evar!”, Looper is probably not your thing.

If, however, you have a strong stomach and an appetite for brainy, philosophical, hardcore sci-fi, Looper might just be the movie for you.

Looper, a film written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) for Endgame Entertainment, stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) as a man named Joe who works for a crime syndicate in the year 2042. According to the film’s logic, although time travel doesn’t exist in 2042, it will exist in 2072, and when a future gang wants someone gone they send that someone back in time to be killed in the past. Apparently, the body is more easily disposed of in the past, and even if it is found the police won’t be able to identify the person because he or she doesn’t exist yet, and almost nobody knows about the future invention of time travel, so the case would go unsolved.

Joe is one of these “Loopers” (hence the title) that kills people sent from the future. He and the other Loopers all agree that, to keep the operation secret, in thirty years’ time they will be sent back to the past to be killed by their past selves – this is called “Closing the Loop”, and it marks the end of their career as a Looper. They can then go party and have the best life possible for the next three decades until the agreed-upon day of their death.

But then, when it’s Joe’s turn to close his loop, he looks into the eyes of his future self – portrayed by Bruce Willis – and hesitates for a split-second, which gives future Joe just enough time to knock out past Joe and escape. Now fearing for what he has done, Joe goes on a manhunt for his future self in order to kill him and close the loop, before it’s too late.

Easier said than done.

This turns out to be only the first part of the movie, as soon we learn why future Joe is determined to live, and past Joe must make a choice that could affect the entire future of the planet. No, I am not going to spoil it for you, but let’s just say that this is where the movie’s “braininess” appears – it delves into the many-faceted, convoluted potential consequences of the existence of time travel. This is one of its strongest points, it makes you think. If you are going to watch it, I’m going to recommend watching it in a group, because you will be talking with your friends about this movie and sharing your different takes on it for quite a while.

Another of Looper‘s strengths is the fully-realized and developed world in which it takes place. We don’t see the lazy “the future is just like the present but with a few differences” that some films and TV shows, even great ones, portray. This is a very plausible world – dystopian, to be sure – that projects the consequences of current trends and depicts social, political, and economic changes that are presented very subtly, creating a feeling of depth to the setting. Plus, this movie takes a “show, don’t tell” attitude toward revealing what is going on, putting the onus on the audience to pay attention and make inferences about the meaning of what just happened. It does a little hand-holding, but not much.

But again, and I can’t stress this enough, this movie is real hardcore. It earns its “R” rating and just keeps right on going, stopping just short of “NC-17”-level violence and sex. One sequence pretty early on, used to depict what happens to someone who fails to close their loop, is especially nightmare-inducing. Fortunately, these sequences are brief and don’t distract away from the main plot, but they also come without warning, so sensitive viewers better watch out.

I, generally, don’t like this kind of stuff in my movies; my sensibilities tend to be more “PG-13”. And I did have to turn my head a couple of times. However, I liked the movie overall, because it was engaging, thrilling, deep, philosophical, and generally smart. The sex and violence are not just there to be there, shoehorned in to attract audiences who are into that  sort of thing. One of my biggest complaints about the miniseries The Tudors is that they cram in overt sexuality where it really doesn’t belong. In Looper, however, these scenes and sequences always serve a purpose, either revealing information about the world this takes place in, advancing the plot, or developing characters.

Pictured: character development.

Looper may not be for everyone, but for those who think they want to test their mettle, it is a fantastic ride. A 9 out of 10.