The best thing about the future is that people will no longer wear neckties.
That seems to be about it, anyway, according to Looper, the new time-travel thriller from writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick).
Maybe the future will surprise us and bring more rewards, but it’s hard to tell in this confused and jumbled film that is long on action and intrigue but short on coherence. But that’s the way it is with time-travel movies, as all rules of physics, logic and consistency take a merry holiday.
Explaining a looper is not hard until one is pressed for details. In a future society with the ability to time-travel, organized crime lackeys find bodies hard to dispose of, so they are sent into the past where a looper makes them disappear. But certain rules apply about how long a looper can live, what happens when a body is not disposed of properly and other contingencies that may make sense to Johnson but will leave his audience a step or two behind.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a strung-out looper who understands the long-term drawbacks to his job well enough to stash away his earnings. But his riches are threatened when another looper, Seth (Paul Dano), botches a job and turns to Joe for help — a request not taken kindly by Joe’s boss from the future, Abe (Jeff Daniels).
Johnson combines all this plotting with yet another visitor from the future, played by Bruce Willis, who complicates everything even further.
This first part flies by, with multiple face-offs, chases, sexual encounters and various other cinematic distractions. The second part changes tone and becomes more intimate — at least compared to the first segment — when Joe arrives at an isolated farmhouse inhabited by Sara (Emily Blunt) and her 10-year-old-son, Cid (Pierce Gagnon). The pair play a pivotal part in almost explaining the interlocking identities of many of the characters.
Like almost any time-travel movie, no claims are made that everything adds up, much less makes sense. So one pleasurable way to approach Looper is to accept it as a consistently engaging Hollywood thriller with a good cast, adequate special effects, and a story that you don’t have to understand to enjoy.
Rated R, 118 minutes.