Looper and the return of thoughtful science fiction

02:48, Oct 25 2012

I went to see Looper in a double bill with Dredd 3D. The two films worked very well together: they are both set in a dystopian future, they both include some rather far out drugs and they both feature psychic powers.

I had high expectations for Looper. Every review I had read was glowing with praise, friends were impressed and my social media streams were alight with good word on the film.

Maybe those high expectations were part of the problem. They never help the viewing of a film. It is always better to be blindsided by a classic or surprised by what you had assumed might be a clunker. That's part of the fun of going to the cinema. When the lights go down, you roll the dice.

I was impressed and entertained by Looper, but it didn't completely flip my lid. It didn't bake my noodle, flip my burger or, indeed, mash my potatoes.

It just sort of came and went. In fact, at certain moments, I was a little bit bored.


It's a high concept sci-fi film that is, rightly, not concerned with the intricacies and paradoxes of time travel. Instead, we have a character piece that, eventually, pits Joseph Gordon-Levitt against his older self, played by Bruce Willis.

Director Rian Johnson turns what in other hands would have become a cat-and-mouse action romp into something much more offbeat and surprising. Johnson is an interesting director who made a splash a few years back with his debut feature, Brick - a fun, if slightly contrived, film noir and high school mash-up. 

He followed that with a disappointing mess, The Brothers Bloom, that left everyone wondering if Brick was a one-off.

It's good to see him back on form and bringing his offbeat sensibilities to a mainstream Bruce Willis movie like Looper.

It's also nice to see the return of good, old-fashioned, thought-provoking science fiction movies. There's been a cool trend recently for modesty scaled, thoughtful science fiction of the kind that I feared the success of Men in Black had killed forever.

We've had Children of Men, District 9, Monsters, Moon and Source Code. They are all modestly made, but full of challenging ideas. That's the great thing about good sci-fi, it is never really talking about the future, it is always talking in code about the preoccupations of the present day.

I wouldn't put Looper in that high company, but it is an interesting and novel take on the time travel genre. It isn't as thought-provoking or ornate as something like Primer from 2004 or Timecrimes from 2007, both highly recommended, but it had fun with a neat concept.

But, what did you think of Looper? Did you think Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt looked at all alike? Did the fact it made no sense whatsoever put you off? Post your thoughts below.

Also, as an aside, I've noticed my blog readers are way smarter and better informed than me, so maybe you can help me with this one. I remember reading ages ago about a project that reminds me of Looper. A producer like Joel Silver or Jerry Bruckheimer had a script that they had been trying to get made for decades about a man hunting his older self. What was that film? Can anybody find it on the web and send me a link?

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