Time travel movies are always tricky. The writer and director has to establish the rules that their cinematic universe is adhering to. Some of these films are constrained by the limits they set for themselves. Others bend, break or find loopholes which leave the viewer spending way too much time wondering if they cheated. Early in Looper, Rian Johnson’s latest film, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is sitting across from an older version of himself from 30 years into the future (Bruce Willis). Joe asks how any of this is possible regarding him interacting with himself and older Joe, not wanting to get into it replies: “I don’t want to spend all day making diagrams with straws.” Johnson is letting us know that the time travel mechanics aren’t what’s important. It was a means to an end for this story.
This movie was at it’s best when the two Joes were on the hunt, Older Joe for the person who took someone from him in the future, Young Joe for his future self so he can return to his life as a looper. The biggest crime of the film is that Gordon-Levitt and Willis don’t spend more time together on camera. After the first hour of the film, they go their separate ways until the end.
In his hunt for Older Joe, Joe comes across Sara (Emily Blunt) who has a secret of her own. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory but Sara’s secret is where the film falls apart. While it did lead to one visually stunning scene, it did get a little silly after awhile. Also, it was pretty clear how the film was going to end. I was hoping Johnson would find a creative way around the obvious conclusion or done something even crazier. That said, Johnson created a great film anchored by a solid performance by Gordon-Levitt (I don’t think the makeup to make him look like Bruce Willis was necessary though).