"Looper" an innovative and philosophical take on time travel

Have you ever wanted to meet your future self? Imagine learning how your life will play out, what you’ll look like in 30 years, and then imagine being tasked with killing this future you—could you pull the trigger?

In writer-director Rian Johnson’s new film, “Looper,” Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a specialized hit man, a ‘looper’, in the year 2044. In this year, time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but in 2074 it will have been, and be subsequently outlawed, used only for the mob’s dirty work. Joe’s job is to intercept and dispose of men that the mob sends back in time to be ‘offed,’ since it’s nearly impossible to get away with murder in the future.

Joe enjoys his job, and accepts the sacrifices that come with it; however, his world is turned completely upside-down when one of his kills gets away. This mistake bears even more consequence on various levels when he realizes that the kill is his noticeably aged future self (Bruce Willis). The film thus follows Gordon-Levitt’s character as he attempts to keep his current reality from collapsing.

The film benefits from a tightly knit script, and presents some quite interesting philosophical questions along the way. It’s not your typical time travel movie; the film’s present-day is not so different from our own, and we don’t get to see very much of the distant future that Willis’s character comes from.

What we do get is an intriguing paradox of feelings and motivations tugging in opposite directions. The audience can both sympathize with and hate young Joe and old Joe for their actions. While they’re the same person, the movie shows how the course of time tends to change our desires, motivations and values. The result is that Joe’s future self has an agenda that his present self struggles to agree with.

The exceptional performances in “Looper” carry the story quite well; Gordon-Levitt plays a very convincing Bruce Willis, and has his character down pat. Willis, on the other hand, seems to have landed his typical role; they could’ve renamed his character John McClane and kept the plot virtually untouched.

The only thing that truly annoyed me as I watched the film was Gordon-Levitt’s often-distracting amount of makeup, obviously to increase his resemblance to Willis.

Ultimately, “Looper” takes an innovative and fascinating approach to the sci-fi action genre, and deserves at least one, if not two watches.