Despite its faults, glaring plot holes and unanswered questions, Rian Johnson's inspired and energetic direction injects the sci-fi action genre with a fresh new vision reminiscent of the Wachowskis' bold ingenuity with 'The Matrix'. Looper is possibly the most inspired American action films in years.
Looper (2012) dir. Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Paul Dano, Emily Blunt, Piper Perabo
By Alan Bacchus
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's necessary voiceover explains the near future rules of this time travel yarn. With the forensic technological abilities of authorities in the future criminals looking to whack their enemies choose to send them back in time to be murdered. Loopers who live in the past know when and where these people will be sent and literally sit, wait and shoot ducks in a barrel. Gordon-Levitt shoots his victims on the outskirts of a farm and disposes their bodies in a local incinerator.
This leads us to plot hole #1, which is how Loopers in the past receive their orders. Oh well, let's move on. One day Gordon-Levitt receives a new victim and it's Bruce Willis, the version of himself targeted for death in the future to be killed by his younger self. In Looper terminology this is called 'closing the loop'. Eventually all assassins are forced out of the business and have to be offed by the earlier versions of themselves.
Thus we have plot hole #2 - why do Loopers have to be killed by themselves, and why would someone want to be a Looper knowing they might eventually have their loop closed?
Johnson moves his film at such great speed these questions only come up after the film is over. Or perhaps because of his lightning fast pace, I missed these kernels of information. But the reason why we don't give a damn about these deficiencies is Johnson's triumph in creating a film so fresh and creative in a genre so saturated with mediocrity.
With two versions of the same man sharing the same space, just how would these two people interact? Johnson finds a cool time travel anomaly not seen in any other time travel films - the idea of instantaneous shared memory and existence. We first see this early on when a fellow Looper (Paul Dano) is targeted to have his loop closed. When younger Dano is caught and tortured by his assailants we see older Dano's body, in real time, suffering the ravages of the younger Dano's torture - an awe-inspiring and intellectually thought-provoking action sequence.
Johnson is also not content to sit back and wax intellectually about mind-bending time travel paradoxes. It's one hell of an action film punctuated by innovatively staged and shot action sequences, both gory and beautiful, the same way the Wachowskis rebelled in their Matrix set pieces.