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Released 28 September 2012
Director Rian Johnson

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon
Writer(s) Rian Johnson
Producer(s) Ram Bergman, James D. Stern
Origin United States, China
Running Time 118 minutes
Genre Sci-fi, action, thriller
Rating 15A

Right on time.

Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper – a hitman who kills targets sent back from thirty years into the future, where time travel is illegal and controlled by gangsters. But when Joe’s next target turns out to be his older self (Bruce Willis), Young Joe lets his target escape. What follows is an incredibly tight chase movie through a wonderfully realised near future (2044), which manages to combine action, intelligence and truly memorable characters.

Looper is this year’s Inception – a high concept blockbuster that asks some big questions of its audience, rather than simply blasting them in the face with CGI.

The most immediately striking element of Looper is how well Gordon-Levitt and Willis inhabit the same character, and the scene where the two confront each other in a diner is possibly one of the highlights in either actor’s career to date. Levitt in particular does well to take his cues from Willis’s mannerisms without lapsing into a bad imitation of John McClane.

Similarly the role of Old Joe is a breath of fresh air for Willis fans, and couldn’t be further from the one note aged tough guy he has played recently in films like Red and The Expendables. Coincidentally, you’d have to go back as far as Willis’s previous encounter with time travel – Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys – to find the last time he played a character with this much depth.

Aside from the lead roles, Looper also has some wonderfully memorable supporting characters. Paul Dano chews some serious scenery early on as Young Joe’s fellow Looper and best friend, while Jeff Daniels plays well out of his comfort zone as the creepy mob boss.

The clever use of time travel and twisted plot of Looper bears plenty on nods to the writing of Philip K Dick, who director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) has cited as an influence in interviews. But what really sets Looper apart from typical Hollywood science fiction blockbusters is the fact that rather than using its wonderful setting and premise as a backdrop for a generic action plot, Looper keeps piling on the twists the whole way through the film, while always keeping the big moral questions central to the action.

Looper is the exact opposite of the Hollywood approach science fiction that can be seen in the recent remake of Total Recall (adapted from a short story by Dick, no less). While Total Recall was nothing but a silly and forgettable chase movie which totally wasted any intelligence the source material might have had, Looper delves totally into the moral implications of changing the future, and the bizarre notion of confronting an alternate version of yourself. On top of this it is a fantastically gripping thriller, so much so that it’s hard to even appreciate all the depth the film actually has in a single viewing.

Perhaps the best thing about Looper is that while it has clearly had plenty of influence from previous time travel films (the original Terminator film springs to mind at several points) it manages to take an over-done trope somewhere new, and isn’t quite like anything else that has come before it. Looper is an almost perfect combination of sharp direction and terrific performances by the cast, and either of these things on their own would make this a film worth watching. The combination of both makes it a film worth watching again and again.

- Bernard O’Rourke