It’s a great feeling for a movie fan when a highly anticipated movie exceeds your expectations.
Rian Johnson’s “Looper” was one of the most eagerly awaited films of 2012. The combination of Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, and the high concept cross-stitching of hit men and time travel held a potential that people couldn’t help but build hope for.
I’m happy to report that “Looper” delivers on its promise in a big way. It’s a sci-fi thriller with a soul. Clever, intense and original, “Looper” is easily one of the best movies of 2012 so far.
In the not so distant future, time travel is invented, but quickly made illegal. Criminals continue to use it, however, in order to expedite hits. Disposing of a body by sending it back in time is the most foolproof way they have of executing someone and not being caught. A mob representative (Jeff Daniels) has traveled back in time, and using his knowledge of the future, has taken control of the city. He organizes a team of assassins known as Loopers, who await for targets at designated areas and specific times, shoot the victims when they materialize, collect their pay (in silver, strapped to the victim), and dispose of the bodies.
They’re called Loopers, however, because when they sign on for the job, they agree to “close their loop”. When 30 years pass, and time travel is eventually invented, the Loopers themselves will be sent back in time, to be terminated by their past selves, in order to protect the secrets of the mob. Thus, the job comes with a lifespan. Loopers live high on the hog now. Plenty of money for the high life… drugs, escorts, cars, motorcycles… but they each know that eventually, they’ll have to shoot a victim that will turn out to be themselves.
A Looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) hesitates for a second when his time to close his loop comes. When his older self (Bruce Willis) arrives, everything is off a little bit. He arrives slightly late, his face is unshrouded, his hands are untied… all of these factors add up to a moment of hesitation. And that’s all the time his future self needs to make his escape. Eventually the two meet again (younger Joe is hunted now for his failure to close his loop), and its revealed that the reason older Joe was able to show up unbound was that he actually effected his escape in the future… and then willingly sent himself back into the past anyways, in order to change the outcome of the future.
It’s heady stuff, and “Looper” does a great job of exploiting the narrative potential of time travel, without getting bogged down by over-thinking the complications. It’s simplified, but not dumbed down, and what’s left is the cool, trippy aspect of it all. It makes for a great story. This is a great script. Johnson (who wrote as well as directed) created a wonderful, complicated tale that features a memorable central character (older and younger Joe) and tons of sci-fi trimmings. The weight of regret that motivates Willis’ Joe, plus the slow awakening of conscience Grodon-Levitt’s Joe experiences, gives the movie an enriching emotional heft. Add in a dash of style with the directing, such a spinning the frame, an occasional lens flare here and there, a touch of slo-mo, and you have a recipe for a seriously awesome movie experience.
There is a third act element that has gone entirely unmentioned in the marketing, so I wont be spoiling it here. Not that it’s a “twist” or anything, but it is an “Acceptance check point”… a point in the movie where your sci-fi tolerance will be tested. It has to do with the phase of the movie where Emily Blunt’s character enters into the movie. I don’t mean to tease it, but I imagine those people who have seen the movie will be wondering what I thought of it, since it is a bit of a change of direction. I fully accepted it, however. By that point, I had fully bought in to the characters, the world, and the story.
“Looper” is a rare breed of movie. Intelligent, emotional, and original. It features two huge stars playing the same character, but different roles. At times, you wont be sure which to root for as the two cross interests. But in the end, the audience is the winner. “Looper” will keep your rapt attention from its intriguing set up to its mind-blowing conclusion.