The film opens with an expositional voice-over about how time travel is invented 30 years in the future, and that criminals use it to despatch their various victims by sending them to the past and killing them there. Loopers are the assassins who kill these mob targets in the past. They’re contracted for 30 years, after which they ‘close their loop’ by assassinating the older versions of themselves when they’re sent back. One thing you must never do though, is let your loop run. We see what happens to Paul Dano’s character when he does this. As the older version of himself runs away, the present day company grab the younger version and start removing body parts until the future version can no longer run.
Shortly after having witnessed Paul Dano’s character go through this, we see Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Joe (Junior) receive a new mark; his future self (Joe Senior) and he shoots him dead. He collects the bounty and we see the next 30 years of Joe’s life play out in a fast montage. He meets a beautiful Chinese woman who helps cure him of his addiction and straighten his life out, and then we see him plan for escaping his own death as he gets sent back.
Joe Senior then goes back in time, meets Joe Junior and escapes his death, and goes on the run. (Keeping up? Good). Joe Senior then becomes a Terminator, out to kill the leader of the crime sindicate (known as The Rainmaker) whilst Joe Junior adopts the Kyle Rhys role and tries to finish his assignment. Joseph Gordon Levitt expertly adopts the mannerisms of Bruce Willis in the role, and Bruce is great at playing a character who hates what he feels he has to do in his Terminator role, yet does it anyway and instantly feels the pain of his actions.
All this whilst the crime family, headed by Jeff Daniels’ Big Abe, are trying to find and kill both Joes. It is good to see Jeff Daniels in a big action film again, even if I still cannot get his great performance as Harry Dunn from Dumb and Dumber out of my mind.
If all that sounds complicated, when you watch the film, it has been so well paced and explained that it really isn’t. It all makes sense. The world has a gritty ‘lived in’ feel. There are Telekinetics, whose only ability appears to be performing parlour tricks in floating coins to impress the girls.
And there is a strong Western feel to the action, particularly with the Gat Men who sport hand guns which look like Colt Peacemakers, and wear trench-coats. The guns are even twirled like a classic Western Cowboy. The Western feel is further felt when the action moves to a small farm in the middle of nowhere, protected by Emily Blunt with a shotgun. All of which goes in the film’s favour.
The action, dialogue, and effects are all top rate, and the performances are all genuine. There’s a welcome appearance from Deadwood’s Garret Dillahunt too, who appears as a Gat Man who intimidates with hardly a word spoken.
This was a treat of modern sci-fi, and a rare one at that as it is neither a sequel, nor adaptation, or remake. The film works best as a stand alone movie.