Whether you deliberately skipped the trailer or not, it helps to not know some story details about “Looper” prior to viewing, as major revelations are best seen during the screening itself, devoid of preconceptions and judgments. Some spoilers will be revealed in this review as well, so stop reading if you’ve yet to watch it.
An action-scifi movie, “Looper” examines a time travel quandary, but not without inspiring bewilderment and a few nagging questions. Focusing on a particular Looper (an executioner who disposes of people sent back from the future), the story follows Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who fails to get rid of a time travel escapee, Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Joe is from a divergent future timeline, his life in shambles after a mysterious mob boss, “Rainmaker,” begins disposing of former Looper agents.
Quickly noticeable are Gordon-Levitt’s prosthetics-altered features; it becomes clear soon enough why he’s got an obviously fake nose. Yes, he’s the younger Joe, and the actor does look a bit like Willis thanks to the alterations.
But similarities end there; Old Joe is on a Terminator-esque spree to change or eliminate his future, never mind that the past he ‘s stuck in is different and is already automatically changed by his presence alone.
The details of time travel are better off not talked about, as emphasized by both Willis and Jeff Daniels’ characters. That excuse, however, just makes the inquisitive viewer wonder about the veracity of the time travel aspect even more.
The “Back to the Future” trilogy was able to explain and utilize the concept tremendously, while the “Terminator” films skirted details pertaining to the time machines’ (and travels’) limits. It’s a complicated subject, sure, but in this case, some explanations are necessary.
In “Looper,” a separate future timeline is clearly established, the one that Old Joe lived in and was sent back from. Young Joe and Old Joe have no memories of certain people—Old Joe doesn’t know about the telekinetics Young Joe is about to meet, etc., which means that Old Joe should’ve stopped right there because it obviously isn’t his own timeline, and his presence there already affects Young Joe significantly. His doomed future happened, all right, but not because of this particular reality.
But no, he has to embark on a vague and dreadful mission, and Young Joe unwittingly and inevitably discovers the truth about some future villain, who we never really see in Old Joe’s world.
It’s also unclear how the two Joes share a physical connection. The two are separate entities, so it’s confusing when something that happens to Young Joe’s body affects Old Joe. It gets frustrating.
While there are interesting concepts initially, the story is far from perfect. There are captivating performances, yes, but “Looper’s” mythology is pretty shaky and confusing, making it hard to be truly invested.