Looper takes place in the future’s past. Set in 2044, our narrator (Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe) explains that while time travel hasn’t been invented yet, in 30 years it will be. It will also immediately be made illegal, leaving hard-core mobsters as the only ones brave enough to use it. These mobsters come up with a brilliant system for getting rid of folks who cause them trouble – send them back in time to be murdered by hit-men trained to kill them as soon as they reach the “other side.” So, a man disappears in the future, a body that doesn’t exist yet is disposed of in the present. The hit-men are called Loopers because at some point, each one of them will be required to kill his future self, thus closing the loop and severing any ties the mob has to the entire system. For the Looper’s part, he gets an extra big payoff and 30-years to enjoy it before his ride comes to an end. The mob gets a perfect system for disposing of enemies, traitors and those who refuse to pay their debts.
Unless, of course, a Looper fails to kill his future self, either through accident or deliberate measures. As you likely know from the trailers, poor Joe finds himself in this very position, out-witted by Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis – a man who is singularly motivated to escape and right a future wrong.
That’s it in a nutshell – to say more would be to say too much. It’s true that Looper is an action-time-travel movie, but it has other elements and plot twists not revealed in trailers that are absolutely delicious. You’ll have to see it for yourself, if you want to know.
And you should. This is a tremendously well-made movie. From the cinematography and art direction to the soundtrack, to the special effects, all the sensory elements of Looper create a future that is believable – there are still farms, still cities. Clothes look like clothes, rather than shiny shower curtains or weird rubber body-covers. There are still wide open spaces, still drug addicts and guns and mothers who love their sons. Very little feels contrived about Looper, and that is quite a feat for a time-travel movie.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis both do an excellent job playing Joe and Old Joe respectively rather than playing Bruce Willis, if you know what I mean. Levitt wears prosthetics to give himself more Willis-like features, and adopts a few mannerisms from the older, iconic actor, but he never crosses over into imitation. Joe and Old Joe are not friends, they work against each other for much of the film, but thanks to some solid acting from the two leads, they are clearly the same man.
Emily Blunt, Noah Segan and Jeff Daniels round out the supporting cast with performances every bit as believable as the two leads. Blunt is particularly good as a former drug addict trying to do right by her son. Perhaps my favorite moments come from the relatively small time Paul Dano (also currently starring in Ruby Sparks), and Garrett Dillahunt (Raising Hope) spend on-screen, but I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more than that. The real break-out star of the film is 10-year-old Pierce Gagnon, playing five-year-old Cid (believe me, the kid looks five in the movie, and was probably only about 8 when they were filming). Absolutely authentic, Gagnon hits all the emotional markers needed, from exuberance to protectiveness to temper tantrums. He is remarkable to watch.
Now, let’s talk for a minute about plots centering on time-travel. I know some of you out there take pleasure from cynically pointing out plot-holes and paradoxes, getting lost in the “well if X happened, then wouldn’t Y never happen, thus meaning X would never happen” debate instead of enjoying the damn story. Don’t do that with Looper. Accept it on its own terms – writer/director Rian Johnson does a nice job obeying the rules he has set up. Time travel works the way he says it works consistently throughout the film, so please let that be enough. It will be so worth it if you do.
Final verdict: this is a fantastic movie, one that is as character-driven as it is plot-driven, and surprisingly effective when it comes to the “goosebumps factor” as well. SEE IT! I command you!
This review was originally posted at Good Girls Gone Geek on 10/2/2012