R16, 2hr 10min
Reviewed by Jonathon Howe.
There's a scene in writer/director Rian Johnson's science fiction thriller Looper where Bruce Willis' character tells his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) not to waste time thinking about the mind-bending mechanics of time travel.
This is sage advice as time travel is a topic well-traversed in film and overthinking it would only detract from the enjoyment of what is a thoroughly entertaining film.
Time travel has been invented by 2074 but it is illegal and used only by organised gangs to dispose of their victims. These future gangsters send people back 30 years to be disposed of by loopers - assassins armed with blunderbusses and paid in silver.
When a looper is no longer needed, they are sent back to be killed by their younger self - a process known as closing the loop.
Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt) is a looper from Kansas City who works for crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), who was sent back from the future to organise the loopers.
The Kansas City of the future is a dank, dirty place - having been ravaged by an economic collapse - populated by vagrants and the homeless. A small percentage of the population exhibit a genetic mutation known as TK (telekinesis), but it's usage is typically confined to smaller objects.
When a shadowy crime boss, known as The Rainmaker, starts closing all the loops, Joe inevitably finds himself face-to-face with his future self (Bruce Willis).
But when young Joe botches the hit, it places both versions in danger with Abe's team of hitmen. One of the more horrific but engrossing scenes highlights the danger of not closing your loop.
The looper Seth, played by Paul Dano, fails to kill his future self when his loop is closed. As we watch older Seth running from the criminals, messages start to appear on his body and limbs start to disappear as Abe's gang cut his younger version to pieces.
Johnson made a splash back in 2005 with his debut crime drama Brick - a stylish piece that placed noir and hardboiled detective stylings in a contemporary Californian suburb.
There are inklings of his earlier efforts in Looper - the deadpan narrative, moody lighting and fashion - but the film doesn't drag like Brick did in stages.
Instead it has a pulsating pace, along with exhilarating chase scenes and gory violence, which makes for gripping viewing.
Gordon-Levitt has come a long way from the foppish teen of Third Rock From The Sun and Ten Things I Hate About You fame.
He follows on from unflappable performances in The Dark Knight Rises and Inception, to play a drug-addicted, self-absorbed yet sensitive killer, while also being given the special effects makeover to make him appear more like a young Willis.
In the 30 years between the two, the grizzled Willis has learnt his life lessons, shaken off drugs and found love, only to have it torn away from him. His attempt to right his wrongs by finding and killing the young Rainmaker offers up some interesting ethical questions, while also evoking sci-fi films such as The Terminator and The Dead Zone.
A smart take on an old trick, Looper steers clear of the confusing details of time travel to deliver a thrilling and heartfelt story.
- © Fairfax NZ News