This review is of the TV-14 edited version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Looper has a very interesting premise of having to try and take yourself down. If you succeed then you already know that you’re doomed but if you fail then you will be axed a whole lot sooner. It’s a lose-lose situation no matter how you slice it and that’s the kind of decision that the main character has to wrestle with. It asks some interesting questions as the movie goes on.
The movie starts by introducing us to Joe who murders whoever his bosses tell him too. Basically the future finally got wise to all the strategies of hiding bodies so the only way to make someone disappear is to send them to the past and murder them that way. Joe is in this business as well and eventually he will be told to murder his future self which ends his loop but he will be paid handsomely for it. In a way it’s like a form of retirement so people in the business know that their time is limited but they will live like kings in the meantime. Considering that this world seems pretty rundown, a lot of people are fine with the risks.
Of course this means that you are murdering people that you don’t even know about so don’t mistake these guys for heroes. They are still very much the villains of the story every which way you look at it. Well, one day Joe is about to murder his next target except it’s an older version of himself (Who looks so different I doubt anyone would guess that it’s the same person) who isn’t tied up (The victims are always tied up in previous scenarios) and has a gun. Naturally old Joe gets away and regroups.
The situation is made very plain to Joe, he has to make old Joe go away or he will be terminated. Old Joe also states his objectives to Joe, he needs to murder a few kids in this timeline because one of them will grow up to become the Rainaker. A villainous leader so cruel and powerful that nobody can stop him and this leads to the death of Old Joe’s future. So if there is no Rainmaker then he is hoping that his future will turn out well. He asks Joe not to get in his way.
So that’s the basic scenario here and you can already see how things get messy here. If Joe destroys his old version then his loop is closed and he’ll be dooming himself down the line. Of course if Old Joe destroys Joe then he will cease to exist immediately so he has to try and win without harming him. It makes this more of a cat and mouse game as opposed to a straight gunfight. They have to be very careful of their moves and Old Joe also has to account for the fact that the villain groups are after him in the past now too so they have to be knocked off.
Old Joe is clearly a villain here. He’s trying to murder children who haven’t done anything yet and acknowledges that he will be getting some innocents too. So lets not get that twisted. Old Joe is an interesting villain because of this viewpoint. He’s ultimately trying to save his present/Joe’s future but is taking the most extreme route to doing so. From his perspective he feels like it’s the only way out and as his current form is already a villain by being in that line of work, it’s easy to see how this escalated.
He even takes out a lot of the villains in the present timeline as well. I would say that Old Joe easily steals the show in every scene that he is in. The guy is the highlight in this adventure. Then you have classic Joe who is not nearly as likable. The first scene with him selling out the friend was particularly brutal. Yes, the friend was pretty bad there with his decision making and made the whole thing Joe’s problem out of nowhere but betraying him is not the right call. Especially for money which is what it came down too.
Over the course of the movie Joe learns how to be someone who can make the right calls but it’s a long journey. Even by the end he makes things a little hard on himself by not keeping his guard up which leads to a really rough call. I’ll give the film kudos for constructing a scenario where Joe pulling the trigger actually turned out to be the right call. In nearly any other situation I would be writing that Joe did the wrong thing here but for once that was not the case. I can’t go into specifics without your seeing the movie as it would be a spoiler but it’s good that he took the show.
One issue that I have with the movie is I don’t think it took full advantage of this world and the mechanics behind it. Time travel sounds awesome and I’d like to hear more about the world but it’s never really a focus. In fact, we rarely see the future as most of the film takes place in the past. There is also a long portion of the film that starts to become more of a drama than an action.
Joe meeting up with Sara and her kid Cid could be a little on the dull side at times. Sara means well though and does a good job of protecting her house. Considering how dangerous this place is, you have to give her a lot of credit there. The inevitable romance was really extremely weak though. It’s super sudden, makes no sense and just doesn’t work. I would say the film could have dodged that entirely.
As for Cid and the whole rainmaker plot, it feels random at first but eventually becomes really important. I would usually say you could have just cut Cid out but that would change the film as a whole. His super powers/corruption just felt really out of place even next to the other powers. He would appear to almost be demonic at times. I guess that’s just his super powers in the end but he does seem like he’s going to go off a dark path right away even without any tragic moments.
Kid Blue is one of the main villains here. He’s not a leader or anything but he’s always wanting to try and stop Joe so he gets a big role as a result. He’s not super skilled or anything though so things don’t usually end up going his way. His boss even stabs and humiliates him and there isn’t much Blue can do about it. So I didn’t find him particularly threatening or interesting at all. At least Abe had the whole leader thing going for him but Old Joe overshadowed him by a lot. Old Joe is what gives the film all of its depth. Fighting for his family for so long that he eventually became one of the villains himself continuing the cycle of violence.
The film can get a little violent at times but never too crazy. It holds back a lot and uses the time elements to its advantage. Like at one point one guy starts disappearing and you quickly realize why that is with how the past affects the future. Showing it would have been way too crazy so in this way you get it across without being too gritty. The movie did good on that.
Overall, Looper is an interesting sci-fi film. I do think it loses a lot of momentum in the middle and also wastes some of the potential of the concept though. It’s all very interesting which is why Sci-Fi’s can be fun but you need to spend more time on the actual time travel. I would still recommend giving this one a look but you’ll find that Joe is a very annoying character. He’s not heroic, not trustworthy, and his priorities are all wrong. The romance is weak here and you don’t buy into it since he’s one of those guys who is more about having quick affairs like early on in the movie.
Never underestimate time travel!