Art & Culture

I don't know what it is about sci fi movies with half an ounce of intelligence (i.e. ten times as much as usual) but they seem to bring out the hyperbole in otherwise quite sensible film critics. Don't believe everything you read; this isn't that good.

It starts off promisingly enough with a simple exposition about time travel which doesn't attempt to explain how it works or how it was invented, simply that it exists – in the future. We're already in one future (2044), but in the future of the future (2074), time travel (illegal) is used by gangsters to get rid of unwanted people by sending them back to 2044, where a looper will shoot them on arrival. Clearly this makes no logical sense, but it's fine as a premise. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper. He lives well, required simply to dispose of someone every so often, but otherwise free to party hard (thanks to some drug state induced by drops in the eye), and yearn for an unavailable hooker – some cliches never die.
There's one dread that loopers have, and that is that their future self will be sent back to be rubbed out – by them. You'd think that this could be avoided by getting someone else to do the execution, but setting that aside, the worst thing a looper can do is to let his future self escape. So naturally, when Joe senior (Bruce Willis) arrives on the plastic sheet one day, he outwits his younger self and goes on the run. Oops. And here are where the problems with the film start.
After an initial amusing encounter between the 2 Joes, they go their different ways (Joe Jr wants to kill Joe Sr, but Joe Sr wants to kill a kid who will become a villain in the future). The bad guys, meanwhile, are trying to kill both Joes. But the narrative takes a huge swing in a new and unexpected direction, when Joe Jr arrives at a lonely farm where Emily Blunt and a young boy (who may grow into The Rainmaker – the villain) are living in the middle of Kansas. And here the film references multiply, For a start, the kid is like something out of The Omen; there are the cornfields redolent of North By Northwest; reminders of Witness are hard to avoid, and of course killing someone to save the future is pure Terminator.
It's all too much to cope with. Bruce is left rooting around in the city looking for the right kid to kill, and occasionally slaughtering goons; Gordon-Levitt and Blunt are making half-hearted goo goo eyes at each other when she's not hacking ineffectually at a tree stump with an axe, and the whole film comes to a stop while we wait for some sort of climax. I'm probably saying far too much if I mention Sydney Carton, but let's assume that most of you are not familiar with A Tale of Two Cities.
I know saying that a sci fi movie doesn't make sense is a pointless thing to do; but this one doesn't, not even within its own internal logic. Like Prometheus (although it's much better than that), there are emmental-like worm holes in the scheme of things. I also didn't like the decision to remodel Gordon-Levitt's face to look more like Willis. He looks weird, and if anything, resembles someone doing a Brando impersonation. And why do even intelligent (or almost intelligent) sci fi movies still require so much gunfire. Shooting people (in movies) is such a dull activity, and should be saved for computer games.
I'm not saying this is a bad film – it even has Richard and Linda Thompson on the soundtrack – but it could have been so much better. Specifically? Make it simpler, shorter, less violent and more consistent within its own logic. By all means go and see it, but keep your expectations down, if you can.

Phil Raby

Front Row Films

•    Content supplied by the excellent Front Row Films website – check the site and join up for many more reviews and general all-round film goodness.