It’s 2044, time-travel has been invented and almost immediately outlawed. Crime syndicates, of course, don’t care what’s illegal. By 2072, murdering and disposing of bodies has become too difficult in an increasingly ‘nanny-state’ society. For crime to continue, time-travel has become a necessary device to bump-off human baggage, so these crime organisations use rusty, chicken-wire box portals to send victims back to 2044 to be executed.
There they appear, head-bagged, hands-tied, kneeling on a white mat, with silver bars strapped to their back. In charge of the executions are the ‘loopers:’ hired assassins who take on their job knowing eventually they will have to ‘close their own loop’ by killing their future selves. It comes to fruition that a criminal mastermind known as ‘The Rainmaker’ has come to power in 2072 and begun closing all of the loops.
Staring down the barrel of a gun at the white mat is one such looper, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who, when faced with his own future self (Bruce Willis), is outfoxed. Failing to close your loop is not an eventuality that is taken lightly, and thus a dangerous scenario begins in which Joe hunts himself, whilst future Joe pursues ‘The Rainmaker’s’ child self, but is forced to ensure his fiery (read: idiotic) young self also survives.
A mesmerising web of quirks and quips of 2044 immediately subsumes you into the world of the loopers: from the telekinetic genetic disorder which guys use to pick up girls in bars, to the drug-fuelled population dropping liquid onto their eyeballs to pep up. It’s a dark dystopian grid-network – somewhat reminiscent of the streets of Blade Runner, without as much futuristic strain – that is a believable step from current society into the future.
What becomes problematic is that midway point, where the tick-tick-ticking clockwork of the plot becomes clanky. It’s a trope that sci-fi films, particularly time-travel based ones, often fall into: after the seamless establishment of a successful sci-fi cityscape and tangible storyline, the narrative becomes hard to sustain and ends up descending into chaotic and messy plot lines, fraying at the ends like old rope.
Whether Looper will ever gain the cult status which critics have hailed it with for future generations is any man’s guess; for the current generation though, it is an undeniably transfixing watch.
Looper, dir. Rian Johnson (2012, USA/China)