Natalie Stendall’s Film Review: Looper delivers on both concept and story as time-travel comes to big screen

LOOPER, one of the year’s most highly anticipated thrillers opened number one at the UK box office this weekend. Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick), Looper is confident and electrifying.

In the future, time travel has been invented. Immediately made illegal, it is only available on the black market and is used by the mob to dispose of problematic individuals.

In 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a Looper who kills and disposes of targets sent back from thirty years into the future. The problem is that looper’s know too much, so when the mob decides to ‘close the loop’, Joe must kill his future self (Bruce Willis). But 2074 Joe evades his own assassination and embarks on a dangerous plan to change his future, while being pursued by his younger self.

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Movies based on such a pronounced concept can easily fall flat, failing to deliver on anything but the idea. Looper is not one of these films.

Although set in 2044, Looper doesn’t get wrapped up in a vision or aesthetic of this future. Everything looks familiar - cities, fashions, cars - albeit with a few twists here and there. Dialogue between Joe and Looper boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), subtly ascertains that twentieth century style is in vogue, enabling Looper to focus on plot and character.

But while such aspects of Looper are subtle, there are also a few blunt hints at what is to come. When an early, out-of-the-blue voice over explains the concept of TK - telekinesis - it’s pretty obvious that this concept will play a part in how the story unfolds.

Despite this giveaway, Looper’s story is convincing, suspenseful and interesting. As Joe argues with his future self across the table of a local diner, the script cleverly grapples with the issue of identity - how much can a person change in thirty years? Looper’s time-travel issues are also smartly navigated, while Joe’s older self refuses to discuss the technicalities. Even so, there are enough mind bending time-travel issues to keep audiences debating Looper hours after they’ve left the screen.

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Looper’s solid storyline is backed by strong performances from the cast. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, covered in prosthetics to make him appear more like Bruce Willis’ younger self, intelligently avoids the impersonation trap. In Joe’s opening voice-over, his cleverly altered intonation and phrasing emulate Willis’ but stay well clear of comic. Following on from his success in The Dark Knight Rises, Gordon-Levitt gives another unshakable performance here in Looper.

Willis has no difficulty convincing as the heavyweight assassin on a shooting spree but also gives a substantial account of the desperate, grieving side to the older Joe. Willis excels in a standout scene that comes in the aftermath of a particularly difficult killing.

Sara (Emily Blunt), a single mother struggling to maintain control of an isolated farm, provides a neat opportunity for the younger Joe’s maturation when he takes shelter there. Under a gun-toting bravado, Blunt gives us a vulnerable character trying to make amends for her past in a performance that’s one of her recent best.

Looper is an exciting time-travel thriller for the twenty-first century. Excellent casting and a script that delivers on both concept and story, with plenty of talking points, might just make this a future classic.

Certificate: 15.

Running Time: 118 minutes.

Verdict: 4 out of 5.

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