Is anything in Rian Johnson’s Looper a particular revelation? Not exactly. How could it be? Time travel is a familiar concept to moviegoers, in comedy (Back To The Future) and action (Terminator) and more, and while the specifics may change somewhat, the overall conceit is that what happens in the past can alter the future. Since we’ve usually seen that future, the stakes are high. People can be wiped out, the entire world could be changed by one small act. That’s true in Looper, too.
Yet, while watching it, I had the feeling that I was seeing something new. You can tell Looper wasn’t just cobbled together from pieces of other movies. It’s not following any formula. Rian Johnson clearly put a lot of thought into how looping might actually work, and what our world will be like thirty or so years in the future. And that’s golden. Most movies can be easily categorized by genre, follow a certain prototype, with recurring motifs and iconography. But there’s no part of Looper that’s there just because other time travel movies have it, too, or because the sci-fi genre required it to be. Every piece of Looper is here because it’s a part of this specific story. That’s rare. As someone who sees a hell of a lot of movies, it’s exciting to still be so surprised by one.