This is a sci-fi mystery.
There may be spoilers ahead
(assuming you're reading this review in real time)
Time travel's tricky, but always fun regardless of logic-loopholes. There haven't been a whole lot of horror movies involving it — maybe a couple, like the Jack The Ripper one Malcolm McDowall starred in, back in the 70s or 80s — and even fewer noir. But somehow, director and writer Rian Johnson manages to juggle all kinds of genres in Looper. The second the end credits rolled, I had my Rotten Tomatoes quote: "It's Carrie Meets The Terminator by way of Oedipus Rex."
With that quick slash to the sensational bits, I make it seem quite tawdry. But actually, at its heart (and it does have one) Looper is about family and what it means to be a man. Johnson fave Joseph Gordon Levitt plays Joe, a time traveling assassin who runs into his older self (played by Bruce Willis) and has to decide whether he should live, or die. The elder Joe. Not him. And not the actor, Joe. Oh, this is so confusing!
So that's why as the writer, director Johnson decided not to try and tackle or explain too many paradoxes. He focuses on the mystery of it (his characters don't understand how time travel works, either — so, there's no need to explain it) and lets us get to know the characters. At first, the film seems like a nod to Johnson's first feature, noir crossover Brick (voiceover narration); then it switches gears to nod at his sophomore film The Brothers Bloom; and finally settles into its own singular self.
Looper is one of the few character-motivated science fiction films to come out lately (even the master, Ridley Scott, pulled off a more story-driven, existential thing with Prometheus, and the current contender Dredd is action-driven). Still, it's got quite a lot of popcorn appeal (if you are truly searching for an intellectual exercise in sci-fi extentialism, look no further than Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth… or as I like to call it, the thinking person's Benjamin Button).
I won't say much more about the film, but rest assured, horror fans: there's blood a'plenty.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson