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Movie Review: Looper
Time travel paradoxes and a little action
Looper is a sci-fi action movie that has the ambitious goal of exploring some of the consequences and paradoxes of the realization of time travel. This is ambitious because the subject of time travel itself is complex, so even a minor plot hole can potentially create a disaster. The good news is that this movie does a great job of dealing with the subject of time travel and does so with intelligence and continuity. The bad news is that movie is lacking on several other fronts; this is shame given how much of an achievement exploring the problems associated with time travel actually is.
The movie focuses on Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is a "Looper." This slang title is given to people that execute criminals sent back in time - by other criminals - so that the bodies can be disposed of in a way that makes it impossible to find those responsible for their murder as well as impossible to trace. Eventually the future self of the Looper is sent back in time and killed by their present self, giving them a major payday and 30 years to do what they want. Doing so "closes the loop," hence why these individuals are called Loopers. This is in line with the movie's attempt to create a future that is violent and gritty, if not a little cliche. The action of the movie begins when Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back to be executed by present day Joe and manages to escape. As the movie continues, we learn what happened to Joe in the time leading up to his return to the present - the present in the movie is still much later this century -, and most importantly, what future Joe intends to do. Intent on murdering someone he believes to be a threat in the future, future Joe must avoid the organized crime ring that controls the Loopers, as well as Joe himself, who is also trying to kill him and close his loop. Present Joe must also avoid the crime syndicate for which he so loyally worked because capturing present Joe is another means by which to stop future Joe. Of course, the Joe of the present can't be killed, or future Joe won't exist, and that's just the first paradox. The plot boils down to a future Joe intent on changing the past, and a present Joe equally intent on maintaining the course of history because of the grave consequences that may arise from altering it.
Sound confusing? Truly, it is not. The movie plot is fairly easy to follow, while the complexities of time traveling paradoxes and moral dilemmas are what really twist the viewers brains in knots. One example occurs in a conversation between present and future Joe, in which future Joe tries to explain how he remembers things that haven't happened yet. The description is interesting and highly imaginative, and one of the more straight forward paradoxes addressed. If you enjoy these types of physical and ethical quandaries, this movie should be enjoyable despite its flaws.
The acting is spot on, with Joseph Gordon Levitt holding his own next to Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis plays his current type cast; he's an tough old man that knows how to use a gun. While both Joes are in constant danger of being one dimensional characters, both actors do an excellent job at bringing out the subtle sinner versus saint trait that both characters share. They did especially well given that the screenplay itself is not the best. It is often cliche, and major plot elements appear awkward and obvious instead of seamless and subtle.
If you're not into the mind bender aspect of sci-fi, the action in this movie, coupled with its unpolished writing, make this movie one you might wish to avoid. There is some action, but don't expect any prolonged action sequences or sci-fi flair. Most of the movie takes place in a future rural area which lacks technical toys and all the other fun stuff people usually expect in a major sci-fi flick. The movie is well shot and the scenery is great, but there are only a few areas in the movie that have a real futuristic feel. What the future looks like isn't something with which this film is concerned. The movie isn't boring by any means, but it definitely lacks anything outside its mind bending elements to draw in a sci-fi audience.
I personally give it a 7 out of 10, which means it's high enough quality that I'd recommend seeing it, but once again, only if you like twisting your mind around complex paradoxes brought on by time travel technology. The acting saves a subpar script from the ruin it could have been, and the movie is, in general, decent enough to justify itself as a high budget film. If you're not into sci-fi in general, or love a film jam packed with action, this isn't the film for you. It's a film that's good for a very specific kind of audience, but sadly doesn't have much appeal for anyone outside that small focused group. A better script or more action may have given the film wider appeal, but as it is, it will most likely disappoint the expectations of the majority of sci-fi action fans.