As our movie starts, the year is 2044. Time travel hasn’t been invented as of yet, but it soon will be. When it is invented, it’s taken control of by the criminal element of the future. When this mob of the future wants to get rid of someone, they dispatch them into the past where a hired gun, known as a Looper, awaits, ready to execute the target. Joe, one of the more reliable Loopers out there, is doing his job, collecting his money, getting high and living his life until one day, his future self is sent back for him to execute, closing the Loop, so to speak.
That’s the broad premise of Looper the latest movie from writer/director Rian Johnson who’s previously directed movies like Brick and episodes of one of the best shows on television, Breaking Bad and as far as I’m concerned, this is an instant science fiction classic deserving of multiple viewings. Johnson has given us something here that’s extremely meaty and very intelligent.
Now, I’ll certainly grant you that there’s plenty to question about the big picture premise, like how does the mob get ahold of time travel and addressing that isn’t really a concern of Johnson’s and that’s just fine. He’s basically giving you the premise and asking you to go with it, but there’s also enough meat built into this with one other character that it’s pretty easy to come to your own rationalization why such things happen. That’s not what’s important to this movie though; what’s really important here is what happens in the past and it’s implications for the future and how it shapes and molds individuals. The world can be explained, but it’s mostly through what you see happening with all of the various characters in the film.
Time travel films can almost always come with some sort of plot holes or paradoxes that will leave some sort of bewilderment. That’s not the case here and it certainly seems to me that Johnson has gone to considerable lengths to make sure that he’s got all of his bases covered. Everything works and yet Johnson has done such a wonderful job of crafting his characters that you never quite know what’s going to happen next. When the final resolution comes, we’re not expecting it and yet it all makes sense thanks to some very important character growth from the film’s main character, the Looper, Joe.
Joe is played by both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis and the performances from both are just outstanding, I’d even go so far as to say Oscar-worthy, especially for Gordon-Levitt who I think is simply one of the best actors working today. Gordon-Levitt is wearing some pretty heavy make-up to make him look like a younger version of Willis, and he’s also studied Willis’ mannerisms quite well. Sometimes, the make-up might be a little distracting, but more often than not it does work. One scene in particular shows Gordon-Levitt in a wife-beater type of t-shirt and the first thing that came to mind to me when I saw that was Bruce Willis in Die Hard. The thing is, Gordon-Levitt is not just doing a Bruce Willis impersonation, but he’s building an entirely different character, especially after both versions of Joe have a conversation face-to-face.
At the same time, Willis is just doing some brilliant stuff here. The majority of the film deals with the younger Joe, but thanks to one terrific montage scene that accelerates time, we get to see the transformation that the younger version makes to the older version and a whole different form of growth taking place. Willis’ older Joe has become a new character shaped from different life experiences. When the older Joe comes back to the past, he comes in with a hard plan to change the future and it’s through a task that is extremely distasteful. It’s something that the younger Joe would’ve done in a heartbeat without any effects, but the older version now deals with it in a very hard manner.
Gordon-Levitt and Willis carry the movie, no doubt about it, but they’ve got quite a bit of capable support and it’s all quite strong. Emily Blunt plays a character named Sara who the younger Joe encounters after he’s met his future self. Sara is caring for her young son, Cid on a farm and has her own problems to deal with, which I just can’t talk about without revealing more about the film. Jeff Daniels plays Abe, a representative of the mob from the future who’s in the past corralling the Loopers and handing out their assignments. It’s nice to see Daniels and Gordon-Levitt back together on-screen as their previous movie that they worked on together, The Lookout is what really made me take huge notice of Gordon-Levitt. Most impressive for me though was young Pierce Gagnon who plays the little boy Cid. Again, I just cannot go into the details about this character without spoiling aspects of the film, but whenever this boy is on-screen he commands your attention, most particularly after one very brutal bit of violence.
Looper is just absolutely terrific entertainment. It’s a smart science fiction film that gets there due to great characters and dialogue more than it does by action, but yet it’s action sequences are also quite well done. Looper grabbed me right from the start and just didn’t let go. Don’t miss this one…