Looper one sheetIn the closing years of the 21st Century, organized crime syndicates apparently have a problem with their standard tactic of hastening someone’s demise for not cooperating: every single person on Earth is tracked and people can’t just die. By a lucky coincidence, however, time travel has been invented and while it was quickly outlawed, it does offer a solution for the elimination of these undesireables: send ’em into the past, where people from the mid 21st Century, “loopers”, await with shotguns in hand to kill them immediately upon their arrival.

Presumably, this is all inspired by the idea that if time travel is outlawed, only outlaws will travel in time, and that’s just what happens.

The main character is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper 30 years in the past with specific details of when others will be sent back, where they’ll be at the precise moment they appear, and what to do: kill them immediately upon arrival.

To retire a looper, the future mob simply sends the older self back through the time portal: the younger self then kills the older self without realizing (“closing the loop”), then learns that they have thirty years to live after which point their death has already happened. There’s a huge paradox here, but let’s skip it for now, along with the question of why sending someone back in time defeats the tracking system but that, say, encasing them in concrete doesn’t.

Joe’s older self (played by Bruce Willis) comes back after the younger version of him learns that a mysterious character called The Rainmaker is eliminating all loopers as part of his one-man drive to take over the syndicate. Joe, however, can’t shoot his older self, creating the interesting situation where younger Joe is chasing older Joe, even as older Joe tries desperately to remember what happened thirty years early and how he can avoid capture.

The mob isn’t happy when younger Joe fails to kill older Joe and sends a group of assassins after him. So younger Joe finds refuge in a pleasant farm house in the middle of miles of corn fields, a house that looks exactly like one from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Signs. The tough-but-lovely head of the farm is Sara (Emily Blunt), who is raising creepy little boy Cid (Pierce Gagnon) while trying to fight off the homeless guys who apparently keep wandering through her fields. Metaphorically, I mean.

The first act of the film is pretty interesting and the explanation of how they worked out all the standard paradoxes of time travel almost sold me on the narrative story. Once we get to the farm, however, Loopers becomes Children of the Corn 2044, with a little bit of the banal Signs mixed in for good measure. But it’s not good. It’s as if they forgot that it was supposed to be a sci-fi thriller and the middle portion of the film, as it slowly reveals to have a Carrie-like twist, goes way too slowly for this reviewers taste.

The last portion of the film, when the action revs up again, is good but by that point the plodding progress of the cornfield scenes had caused me to lose interest, even through the final twist when the surprising and provocative relationship between the characters – and the identity of The Rainmaker — are explained. I left feeling that there was a good sci-fi action film buried under a lack of focus on the genre tropes and a lack of consistent pacing as the narrative unfolded.

I’ll give this one a tentative thumbs up anyway. I admit, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around Jeff Daniels as Abe, the super-tough mob boss because I’m such an aficionado of his hit HBO series The Newsroom, but if you like Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Bruce Willis, they’re both good. Emily Blunt is, well, quasi-tough and quasi-vulnerable both and certainly pretty to look at on the screen.

Loopers. See it, tell us what you think!