Review of Looper

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In a futuristic gangland, a killer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for a mob in the year 2042 as a "Looper", where he kills and disposes of people who are sent from the year 2072. Loopers like himself are well paid on the terms that the target must never escape. When one target arrives however he recognizes the victim (Bruce Willis) as himself and hesitates, allowing his older self to escape. The resulting failure of his job causes the mob to come after him, forcing him to fight for his life as he hunts his older self.
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Back in 2005, writer-director Rian Johnson made an impressive little movie called “Brick” that combined the private eye-crime noir genre with a High School setting and made us start to wonder if that Joseph Gordon Leavitt kid was going to have a career past being the alien teenager on “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Now no one is wondering anymore as Leavitt re-teams with the director for the sci-fi film “Looper”, the year’s most ingenious and thought-provoking movie.

It takes place in the year 2044, where time travel will not exist for another 30 years but when it does, the mob will control it and send all of their dirty laundry back in time to be easily disposed of by assassins known as loopers. Joe (Leavitt) is just such, a murderer by trade whose also strung out on drugs and prostitutes. But when his future self (Bruce Willis) turns out to be the next target he hesitates just enough to be overpowered. Now Joe’s mentor and boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), must dispatch men to kill both.

There’s more here: future Joe has come back on a mission that involves his wife and a future mob kingpin. Regular Joe must protect a lonely farm widow (Emily Blunt) and her young son (Pierce Gagnon). And there’s a subplot about 10% of the world having telekinesis. Johnson has stitched this all together with nary a plot hole or confusing/ convoluted moment to be found. His interest is the direction people’s lives take and if those lives can be course-corrected through love or some other means, and if in the end those means can be justifiable.

Even better is that this is not a movie interested in highly stylized futures or their gimmicks but about the characters. “Looper” inspires more thought than thrills, even though there are gun-fights, slo-motion, and special effects that are impressively done. There are four really good performances here, Willis, Blunt, and Leavitt each carrying an intensity, and each showing presents shaped by rough pasts. Watching Willis and Leavitt especially is riveting, Leavitt still with a youthful naiveté and Willis more hardened. Gagnon is also very good as a rager of a little kid. “Looper” is endlessly intelligent, thrilling, and well acted, making Johnson a fascinating and original filmmaker that I can’t wait to see more from.