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Quality time for killers

LOOPER Sci-Fi. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels. Directed by Rian Johnson. Cert 15A

The idea of time travel is one which has fascinated writers and film-makers for the best part of a century. HG Wells' The Time Machine inspired a classic movie (and one featuring, er, Samantha Mumba), The Time Tunnel was a kitschy Sixties' TV series which enthralled me as a boy and we've had dabblings with the concept in The Terminator, Star Trek IV, Twelve Monkeys, Planet of the Apes , Back to the Future and The Final Countdown, not to mention several episodes of The Twilight Zone.

One of the mind-melting aspects of the notion is that were one theoretically able to travel in time and accidentally kill an ancestor then would you have ever existed in order to travel back in time in the first place? Or, as one character in Looper puts it, "This time travel crap fries your brain like an egg". Well said, that man.

The third movie from Brick director Rian Johnson is a high-concept sci-fi actioner set in a nicely scuzzy 2044, where criminals from 30 years ahead again send their victims back, bound and hooded, to be dispatched by hitmen known as 'loopers'. Once the assassin's usefulness has been reached, their future selves are sent back with a massive pay-off and the 2044 looper gets to enjoy his wealth for the next 30 years. Keep up there at the back.

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one of crime boss Abe's (Jeff Daniels) top operatives but senses that there's something bad afoot as a future crime figure known as the Rainmaker is 'closing' the loops at a growing rate.

This is confirmed when the future Joe (Bruce Willis) arrives back, survives the hit and sets out to eliminate the young Rainmaker for his own reasons. So, we have two Joes running around and a neat variation on the old 'If you could go back in time and kill Hitler, would you?' conundrum, all of which adds to the head-spinning array of ideas spun beautifully by writer-director Johnson.

Looper may have a few plot anomalies but that doesn't detract in the least from a film which credits its audience with having the necessary intelligence to follow proceedings. Gordon-Levitt and Willis are both excellent as Joe, with the latter's trademark grizzled cynicism used to magnificent effect.

Emily Blunt turns in yet another flawless performance as a determined survivor living on a farm while the director presents us with a vision of the future which, while it does admittedly have hover-bikes, isn't too wildly far-fetched.

There are times when Looper will certainly fry your brain like an egg but it sticks determinedly to its guns and lobs in so many smart ideas and noirish one-liners that you can't help but be caught up in the smartest sci-fi movie in years. All that remains now is to try to find the time to go back and see it again.

HHHHH

THE CAMPAIGN Comedy. Starring Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Dylan McDermott, Jason Sudekis, Dan Aykroyd. Directed by Jay Roach Cert 15A

A would-be satire on American politics that's neither particularly satirical nor remotely funny, The Campaign is a blustering, lame-brained piece of work which reinforces the notion that Will Ferrell's comedy radar is well off-whack at the moment.

Here, he plays Cam Brady, a philandering Democrat congressman who thinks he's a shoo-in for another term until two scheming billionaire brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) decide to run a rival candidate (Zach Galifianakis) who'll be more malleable in their scheme to sell off part of North Carolina to China.

The combination of vulgarity and schmaltz is enough to induce nausea, so if you want a good laugh at American politics I suggest you simply follow Mitt Romney's self-destructing campaign and give The Campaign a wide berth.

HHIII

HOLY ROLLERS Fantasy. Starring Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes. Directed by Leos Carax. Cert 15A

This utterly baffling and unspeakably pretentious piece of nonsense finds the mysterious Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant) travelling around Paris in a white limousine, adopting various guises (beggar, banker, motion-capture artist, assassin) to no apparent purpose.

Holy Motors rolls into the realms of the risible in a finale which had me wanting to punch the director, having suffered through almost two hours of arthouse idiocy.

HIIII

BARBARA Drama. Starring Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld. Directed by Christian Petzold. Cert 15A

The repressed surveillance state of the former East Germany is the setting for this initially interesting but sorely stretched drama. While we're drawn in to the world director Christian Petzold creates, Barbara doesn't have the dramatic weight to sustain its running length.

HHHII


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