Time travel is one of the toughest sci-fi concepts to pull off in film. Too often do writers get lost in the mechanics of time travel to actually present us with an interesting story or realistic characters. Very rarely does a film about time travel actually leap out among the many films that come out in any typical year (Terminatoris a film that comes instantly to mind). Yet for a genre with so many failures, it is interesting whenever anyone does try a film in the time travel genre. That is why Looper is one of the most anticipated films of the year (at least among the online film community). So is Looper the next Terminator? While it shares many key aspects with the film that made James Cameron famous, Looper ultimately fails to make itself stand out as a top-tier film of the genre. It is a good film with the fatal flaw of thinking that it is smarter than it actually is.
Looper takes place in the year 2044, a point in which time travel has not been invented yet. In 2044, a group of assassins known as loopers kill targets that are sent back from the future (at which point time travel has been invented) by gangs because murders can be tracked more easily in the future. The film picks up with a looper named Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) going out to make a hit. The problem is his hit turns out to be himself (a much older version played by Bruce Willis).
The film is directed and written by Rian Johnson (who came to prominence with his indie hit, Brick). Johnson is clearly a talented individual. He has crafted a film that easily could have imploded in lesser hands. The actions scenes are slick, the characters are given depth through the writing and even the time travel mechanisms make sense. Yet there is something in Johnson’s efforts that prevent this from being a classic. The film he has created acts like it’s smarter than it actually is. At one point in this film one character starts talking about how there isn’t any originality in the business anymore (a clear fourth wall moment about the current state of cinema). Yet at it’s core this film is something that Terminator, Star Wars and others have done already.
Johnson also scored big time with the cast he was able to come up with. Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues a big year with a solid performance that isn’t just an impersonation of Bruce Willis (speaking of which, the makeup to transform Levitt into a Willis-look-alike is phenomenal). Speaking of Bruce Willis, he delivers his best performance in years in a role that is perfectly suited for him. However, the standout performance in this film comes from Emily Blunt. Her character has been shrouded in mystery in the advertising for this film. However, what can be said is that Blunt plays a character that is completely against type and she feels natural in the role. She’s actually in complete command of her role and with a perfect American accent this might be her best role in her career.
Looper is an engaging film and a fun time at the theater. It just doesn’t reach the next level to become a classic.