Looper, a clever and action-packed heartland version of The Terminator, may not make as much sense as it should, but as the Bruce Willis character says in a diner, “I don’t want to talk about time travel [crap]. If we do, we’ll be here all day, making diagrams with straws.”
Fine. So: Looper isn’t taking itself too seriously, and nor should we. Rian Johnson’s film, set mostly in 2044 Kansas, is loads of fun, making judicious use of special effects (with its rusty hovercycles and ragged slums it looks more like Repo Man than Blade Runner), and it has some cool twists.
Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the same character at two stages of life. As a man of about 30, Joe is a hired assassin and a junkie who gets high by sprinkling drugs on his eyeballs with a dropper. In 2074, his masters in a massive crime syndicate send him hooded, bound figures that he simply arranges to shoot at a given spot at a given time. Joe owes his job to temporal outsourcing — in 2074, due to tagging techniques, it’s too hard to get rid of dead bodies but Joe is living before that technology exists.
When a friend (Paul Dano) is assigned to kill his own self from 30 years in the future, we learn that these “loopers,” as the hit men are called, are being assigned to “close the loop” by exterminating the future versions of themselves. A mob boss (a quietly scary Jeff Daniels) sent back from the future to monitor these roving assassins convinces Joe that it’s best not to tangle with the crime lords’ idea of how time should play out. Nevertheless, when Willis’s Old Joe, in 2074, manages to alter the circumstances when he is kidnapped and sent back in time for assassination, younger Joe hesitates and allows Old Joe to escape in the cane fields of Kansas.