Despite the often-distracting make up on Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face, designed to make him look more like a young Bruce Willis, Looper is an engaging and effective suspense film that satisfyingly deals with time travel and also tells a pretty great story. It’s worth a look, folks.
Here’s a trailer:
Now the deets:
Released September 28, 2012
Written by Rian Johnson
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring Emily Blunt, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Pierce Gagnon, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, and Garrett Dillahunt
* * * * *
Looper is the story of an orphan boy raised by a gangster to be an assassin of targets sent back through time, and how he ended up having to kill himself.
All kidding aside, that’s essentially the story in a nutshell. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a ‘looper,’ a fellow who blows away targets of a criminal mastermind who lives 30 years in the future. Joe has a designated place where he sets up a tarp and waits for the exact moment that the target appears on the tarp, head covered in a sack, Joe’s payment (all silver bars) strapped to the target’s back. Joe shoots the moment the target appears.
Everything is going well until Joe learns that multiple other loopers are ‘closing their loop,’ which is what happens when the future baddie sends the looper’s older self back to be killed by himself. He’s been saving his pay so he can retire and live a life of peace, but then his older self, ‘old Joe’ (Willis) shows up and gets the better of him.
Now Joe has to chase himself. Old Joe wants to redirect the course of Joe’s life so that his life goes the way old Joe has lived it, without a certain tragedy. But then the plot thickens when Joe discovers that Old Joe is trying to find the mastermind criminal as a child and kill him.
Now it’s a race to find the kid and when that’s done, it’s a question of whether or not you kill a kid to save a bunch of future lives. The kid’s mother is played wonderfully by Emily Blunt. The story culminates with intense sequences of violence wherein justice is brought to the gangster in present time who runs the loopers, played with a chill evil by Jeff Daniels, followed by an emotional climax that decisively completes a story complicated by time travel.
You worry about a movie dealing with time travel, much more so when the premise of the story involves a future version of a character meeting the present-day version of himself. But Rian Johnson wrote a screenplay whose premise is driven by the characters, not the nifty central conceit. For that reason, the set ups and payoffs are finely tuned and effective.
Added to the strength of the character-driven script is the excellent acting. The makeup, good though it is, on Gordon-Levitt’s face is distracting because he has such a recognizable face, but he doesn’t let it stop him from acting the crap out of the character. He’s asked to be ruthless, lost, confused, terrified, then in love and determined. He does a great job, as does Bruce Willis. Emily Blunt does her usual excellent job, giving intelligence and strength to an already powerful character.
To top it all off, the effects are limited to enhancement of set and props, whereas the action is visceral and emotionally powerful. Looper is the best time travel movie made to date, and is one of the most effective, intelligent, and most intense action films of the year.
This is a great, great, film and is worth full price.
Content warnings: language and violence, plenty of blood.
Writing: 5 Acting: 5 Overall: 5
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