Hollywood loves the idea of time-travel. The complexities of a non-linear plot along with the high-likelihood of a scathing social commentary attracts the more mature audiences, whereas the almost inevitable action sequences (think 'Terminator' series, 'Run Lola Run') and enviably original plot will attract a more youthful audience. It's a win win situation... if it is done well. Time-travel can cause a number of plot holes to appear in your script if you haven't paid extremely close attention to the way you have written it.
Luckily for the makers of 'Looper', a fantastically original script along with a talented cast and crew have resulted in one of the best, and certainly most memorable, films of 2012 thus far.
'Looper' is set in 2044, a world in which time-traveling assassins have been hired by gangsters to dispose of their enemies from the year 2074, due to future technology making it impossible for them to hide the bodies on their own. The film focuses on the life of assassin (or, 'looper') Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. After a mysterious man known only as the Rainmaker takes control of the mob in the future, ordering for all loops to be terminated (i.e. for the older version of the assassins to be sent back in time in order to be shot by their younger selves), Joe comes face to face with the older version of himself (Bruce Willis). Older Joe has one mission: to find the Rainmaker, and to kill him. And nothing will stand in his way, not an army of dangerous assassins, not his younger self, not even the the fact that the terrifying Rainmaker is only a young child, completely ignorant to the chaos that awaits...
First, I'd like to applaud Pierce Gagnon, who plays Cid in the film. He's roughly seven years old (no specific age is listed on his resume yet) and has already delivered a performance that has quite frankly taken many people by surprise. It's very rare that you will get a child actor who genuinely impresses an audience with his performance, but Gagnon is a natural. His character Cid is creepy, with very dangerous undertones, but at the same time, he is completely vulnerable. He's seen some terrible things in his young life, and this needs to be projected to the audience so they don't feel compelled to shout "KILL IT. KILL IT WITH FIRE" whenever the young child appears on screen. Gagnon nails it. One moment, he's perfectly adorable, the next, an absolute monster... a definite star in the making.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis and both fantastic at portraying the complex character of Joe. Levitt is captivating as a ruthless man at the height of his career, who would sacrifice anyone and anything for what he wants out of his life. The way he learned many of Willis' mannerisms was fantastic, and made it feel as though the two actors were merely the younger and older versions of the same character. Willis had to portray a much more complex version of the character, and he really did a fantastic job with the challenging role. The audience could sympathise with the level of desperation the man had, but it was near enough impossible to like him. The scene that took my breath away (SPOILER) was the one where old Joe shot a potential rainmaker, knowing that he has only a one in three chance of shooting the right one and going back to his life with his wife, happy as can be. When nothing happens, he knew that he had just murdered a young child for no reason whatsoever, and proceeded to break down, realising the terrible thing that he had just done. (END OF SPOILERS) It really hits the audience hard, and it's very difficult not to feel sympathetic towards his character at this point.
Director Rian Johnson did a fantastic job at portraying the desperation of the future society that 'Looper' is set in, mainly established from the extremities of a man shooting a teenager for stealing his backpack, killing him instantly without so much as flinching, without any sign of remorse for his actions. Aesthetically, the setting is almost post-apocalyptic, with the majority of people seeming to be homeless and riots appearing to be part of everyday life. The sense of emotional detachment is constantly present, whether it's with the looper's emotionless disposal of bodies or people's willingness to brandish guns in other's faces and threaten them with death for doing so much as walking to near to them.
The script itself is fantastic, boasting a great mix of action, suspense, a quality plot and meaningful character development. The characters were complex and completely different from the usual film archetypes that Hollywood inundates us with. Their flaws made the audience question themselves on whether or not they should be rooting for these characters or jeering them. The older Joe especially. Even once the film ends, you are unsure whether or not he was a villainous character or just an extremely desperate husband. The younger Joe is immoral, vain and egocentric, but redeems himself for his sins in a spectacular ending that is my favourite of the year thus far.
I highly recommend seeing 'Looper'. There are some fantastic shots in the movie that justify the ticket price alone, the most beautiful one being the scene in which Joe picks up one of his silver bars. He pulls his fingers away from it to show the audience the blood of his best friend on his hands. Hard-hitting shot, and wonderful commentary on how low some people will stoop out of sheer greed.