When you think of film and time-travel there are a lot of movies that come to mind: The Time Machine, Back to the Future, The Terminator and Primer to name a few. Rian Johnson (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) has decided to throw his hat in with the sub-genre and while I will not say that it redefines it, it definitely uses the ideas that have already been established by the films that came before it and adds a twist on it to create one of the most enjoyable science-fiction experiences you’ll see this year.
Time travel is one of the most troublesome sub-genres of film to generate a narrative for without creating some sort of gapping plot holes. The easiest trick, used by some of the greats, is to allow for the science and personal timeline discussions to be distracted by using engaging action, humour or even some unrelated to time travel drama. That said Johnson doesn’t spend too much time trying to explain any and everything about the science of time travel as it relates to the world of Looper he does create a well realized world that quite possibly has the best science-fiction background that any big budget film can have. There is a detailed explanation of how Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) becomes Old Joe (Bruce Willis) and eventually becomes the man who escapes his assassin, and it is a great narrative explanation. Does it make logical sense? It’s unsure, for the mere fact that you’re having too much fun watching a great film before you have enough time to think about the logical side of it.
With Brick and The Brothers Bloom, the later more than the former, Johnson has shown himself to be a man who isn’t shy in embedding humour into his films and Looper is no exception to that rule. His use of characters and, more importantly, their interactions allows for a lot of humourous moments, some more sadistic than others. There are fun moments with subtitled conversations and languages that remain consistently funny while at the same time keeping tension and stakes high throughout the scene, there’s the tried and true trope of having “bad guys” stop and stare and realize that something’s wrong here and it’s great.
With this being Johnson’s first foray into an action genre I managed to be relatively skeptical of his ability to properly deliver sequences that wouldn’t feel as if his filmmaking was just too much for action scenes (i.e. Nolan in a lot of the Batman films). However, he happened to pull it off completely and produce some fantastically memorable sequences, especially with Bruce Willis taking lead on a lot of the more intense moments.
What makes this movie work so well is that there’s a completely investing plot line for every character in the film. Even Bruce Willis’ character has a motivation which isn’t at any point discarded or unnecessary. Other than one character in the third act, which is a plot convenience (but in the best way possible), no one in the movie feels wasted.