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The world 20 years on is bleak: a dystopia riddled with deprivation, despair and urban decay, yet where the rural areas remain relatively unchanged, at least to our technology-scoping eyes.

That’s not to say Johnson’s future view is not populated with eye-catching gadgets and designs, though.

“I wanted to create a very grounded world that was recognisable and fun, and where you know instantly where you are at,” he says. “I wanted to knock the futuristic design elements back down to Earth a little.”

Looper is full of subtle future-tech designs – weaponry, paper-thin mobile phones, for example – only given a Johnson spin for practicality. So, where sci-fi film perennial the hoverbike is present, in Johnson’s world it is far from the coolest thing on the road.

“They don’t even look like hoverbikes, they look like Triumphs, and they don’t work that well. It’s a flashy thing to turn up to the club on, but they don’t steer well, they don’t brake well and anyone who cares about their ride wouldn’t be seen dead on one.”

More conspicuous amid the future tech, though, is the moral conundrum at Looper’s heart – if you knew how the future would play out, and your role in it, what would you do to ensure that good won out and evil, no matter where or who it was, did not?

In among his cross-generational leaps are subplots involving future gangsters (2072, right?) and the evolutionary development of telekinesis, but it is how the central character(s) deal with the aforementioned moral dilemma that drives the film.

While there are action sequences (foot chases, shootouts, hoverbike encounters …) and moments of heart-stopping visual invention (a tracking shot as Joe Jr falls from a building, the camera tilting and following his perspective the whole way down), it is these ethical and philosophical questions that engage the most, with clear lines to be drawn between Johnson’s film and The Matrix, another movie that mixes action thrills with profound ponderings.

“Sci-fi is geared towards getting at a real emotional core and recognisable human dilemma through crazy concepts,” Johnson says.

By using the time travel concept in his latest work, he’s made a mind- and heart-troubling movie. And he may well have made a cine-classic into the bargain.

Looper is out September 28 through Entertainment One - read our review here


Photos: Entertainment One


Interview: Looper director Rian Johnson talks about his new sci-fi action thriller with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis
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