Good versus Evil is a pretty common theme in gun-toting thrillers packed with assassinations. But Looper is not about good versus bad. It’s about good versus good. On the one side a quest for romantic love, but on the other side a quest for redemption through a mother’s love. The two sides meet head on in a futuristic world where nobody trusts anybody and the biggest threat comes from within the human mind itself.
Joe is a Looper, a hired assassin who is paid to kill victims who from the future. They are sent back to the present for summary executions. In exchange Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is well paid but knows that at some point he will have to ‘close the loop’ meaning that he will have to assassinate his future self in order to tidy things up. This impressive performance puts him among the big boys, such as Bruce Willis, the older Joe who arrives from the future determined to change it. Armed with the love of his woman, vengeance and a gun he sets about the task but his emotional character is not prepared for the choices he has to make.
Young Jo knows he will not be around for long if he fails to ‘close the loop’ by killing Older Joe and that collaboration is not an option. The tension mounts as they confront one another in a gloriously nowhere-cafe on the edge of a maize field. The dialogue is witty, if not exactly laugh-out-loud, and their arguments evenly matched. Willis seems to have the moral high-ground and for much of the film we are not sure whose side to be on.
Old and Young Jo play cat and mouse and the intervening period is filled with murder and bloodbaths. My idea of a perfect thriller is one with a few shocking murders and a lot of tense dialogue and build-up. However in Looper, shooting is the bread and butter, with the odd conversation acting as the cocktail sausages. There are times when it all gets a bit unnecessary. OK so these are violent killers who will stop at nothing. We get the point.
Yet the real story has only just begun and its hero is Sara (Emily Blunt) living alone among the maize-fields, her restless spirit stilled by a sense of isolation and purpose through raising an awkward, disturbed son. She is determined to love him whatever it takes. Note the use of the bomb proof vault which should surely be fitted as standard in all family homes.
Johnson’s vision seems to be of a lost humanity traveling hopefully down a lonely road towards an unlikely dream with no promise and indeed very little chance of a happy ending. Here is a small group of people confronting a vast and lonely landscape, both mental and physical. It’s a crusade marked by its absence of any kind of trust, even between those who are most closely allied with one another.
Be prepared for a plot which hops backwards and forwards in time, be prepared also for heroic attempts to change the future by coming back to the present, and finally be prepared for scenes which are played twice with alternative endings. But despite the confusion the main plot is clear and by the end we are fully aware of what is at stake. A thriller in every sense, this multi-dimensional film is full of surprises, some plausible and some far-fetched. All are worth seeing, if only to find out how any kind of love can conquer in such circumstances.