Looper (2012)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Pierce Gangnon

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Rating: 1 2 3 4 and a half

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe in Looper

If I were you, I wouldn't read this review. No, really. Because, like The Matrix or Inception, Looper is a film best approached in total ignorance, all the better to revel in its twists and turns and shocks, unshaped by preconceptions, free from sci-fi super-hype.

Still with me? Okay, well I'll do my best to keep this spoiler free, but don't say I didn't warn you…

The year is 2042. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, looking somewhat plasticy with Bruce Willis's distinctive schnozz planted on his face) is an assassin. But he's no ordinary gun for hire: he's a looper, in the pay of an organised crime gang operating thirty years in the future, after the invention of time travel. Loopers take out the trash of 2072, executing marked men delivered to them through the coils of time to an appointed spot and moment.

For this job (CV requirements: a good sense of time keeping and an ability to shoot straight) they are rewarded handsomely, so can live the high life in a society brought to its knees by recession. But (of course) there's a catch: as Joe wryly admits, loopers aren't very forward-thinking. Like professional sportsmen, their careers may be lucrative but they're perilously short-lived. Eventually, they're forced to 'close the loop': kill their older selves so there are no messy loose ends left dangling in the future. No keeping a commentators' sofa warm for the loopers…

Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper

A somewhat horrific object lesson from the ever-marvellous Paul Dano, who plays fellow looper Seth, proves why failing to close the loop (or 'letting your loop run') is a Very Bad Idea. So when Joe's loop refuses to, ahem Die Hard (the nose was a total giveaway), he has no sympathy for his older, balder reincarnation at all, even when he reveals some terrible truths about the future.

And, well, that's enough plot I think.

As you may have guessed, I'm pretty excited about Looper. Whether, as with Terminator 2, I'll still be excited about it once the future in which it's set is long in the past remains to be seen, but for now, I'm loving it.

True, the future dystopia it portrays looks fairly familiar, like The Only Way is Essex crossed with Mad Max or Bladerunner: perma-tanned, cocksure young guys on the make sporting slick shoes and rockabilly quiffs, cruising poverty-stricken downtown streets in sleek hotrods, mowing down shopping-trolley-pushing vagrants; sleazy clubs concealing criminal fraternities holed up in dingy backrooms; car parks filled with patched up old bangers plastered with rusting solar panels. But it's cool, edgy, chockfull of clever background detail and it's refreshingly free from lycra and/or PVC – hooray!

As with all time travel movies, from The Time Machine to Back to the Future to The Butterfly Effect, if you think too much about the plot of Looper, it starts to do your head in – which is what makes films that mess with the space time continuum so chuffing marvellous, that irresolvable tension between darkly inevitable predestination and 'no fate but what we make' that seems to cause the earth to tilt a little on its axis when you consider the possibilities.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in Looper

But while Looper plays with big sci-fi ideas, it sets them in a gritty, claustrophobic, noirish world, channelling them through a carefully curated set of characters, all of whom, while we come to care about them, we can't really 100% condone: in 2042, it seems, there is no black and white, only murky shades of grey in a tarnished, selfish, cynical world.

Great, credible central performances, a well-written script and a compelling plot that relies on concepts rather than CGI to take our breath away, all combine to make this a seriously superior sci-fi film, and, I'd hope, a future classic.

If I were being picky, I could say it's basically Terminator 2 in a different guise. But as T2 is one of my favourite films and I was utterly gripped the whole way through this movie, I'm really not in the mood to pick holes at all.

You still reading? Why? Go away and see Looper instead!

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