Written/Directed by: Riann Johnson
Starring: Bruce WIllis, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, & Qing Xu
Studio: FilmDistrict, Endgame Entertainment
Distributed by TriStar, Pictures & Alliance Films
This movie is not about time-travel, despite the multiple trailers and TV-spots that advertise the opposite. While time-travel is a critical function in this plot, a necessary device one could argue, the true heart of Looper comes from finding out who you are, what kind of person you are willing to become and whether you are fated to it or not. With few missteps, director and writer Riann Johnson seems to hit the nail on the head with a great cast and labyrinthine plot.
In a clichéd dystopia set in the near future, time travel has not yet been invented. 30 years down the road from that future, it has been. Criminals from that time period (the 2070's) send their targets back to the 2040's and have hitmen who exist in that time, known as "Loopers", eliminate the future targets of the 2070's. The target appears in a pre-established location, is brutally assassinated with a close-quarters, short range shot gun (easy kill, hard to miss), and is then disposed of in the looper's present. Simple enough, easy work, and far from laborious. The Loopers live like kings, being paid in silver and wasting it away on drugs, vehicles, and guns.
That trailer does not even graze the surface of what actually happens in this film. It shows maybe the first 20 minutes of what is essentially a 2 and a half hour movie. The film sets up as two different stories leading up to their conjoining until about the second act. The life of Joe (Levitt) is given the most emphasis being the story is a narrative from his perspective, but before events can really get rolling they need to show you what happened to Old Joe (Willis) 30 years after he "closes his loop". What this means is Joe must (unknowingly) kill his future self from the 2070's in order to leave no loose ends from the future to connect him to criminal organizations. He must do this or be killed himself by the Gat Men, employed by criminal organizations of his present.
Joe is different from the other loopers, (such as Seth played by the wonderfully erratic Paul Dano). He saves some of his silver and awaits for his time to clock-out and spend it, living lavishly in his young age until he is to be sent back, to close his loop. 30 years from this, he has retired after closing his loop and thanks to the love of his life, a beautiful nameless Asian woman (Xu), Old Joe cleans himself up and gets his life to the peaceful place he always wanted and hoped to earn with all that silver. Suddenly the new mob boss, going by the name "Rain Maker", from 2070 is out to close the loops of the past, earlier than they should have been. This will place all the retired loopers back to themselves to be eliminated, covering any tracks and apparently striking vengeance at an unknown person from the Rain Maker's past. In a desperate attempt to obtain Old Joe, Rain Maker's men accidentally kill Joe's treasured wife, sending him into a brutal rage. This may sound confusing, but from here on in, it is smooth sailing and proves to be a fairly well handled script.
Riann Johnson does not spend a lot of time dealing with the science of traveling through time or its anomalies, he is more concerned with building the character. He wants you to notice the similarities in Old Joe and Young Joe. Johnson wants you to be afraid of what the Looper Boss Abe (Daniels) can do and what he knows from the future. Most importantly, Johnson wants you to feel for both versions of Joe, which is a difficult emotion because you are given every reason to be afraid and disgusted with both of them, but this is what we call dramatic irony. You know more about what happens to them than they do, but the pieces never fit right until the final moments.
The movie is packed with action, decent enough dialogue, and stellar use of camera perspective and CGI. Most notable is the make-up job done to Levitt to have him appear to be more Willis-like. It really works and the scenes that they share together as Joe and Old Joe are really outstanding. Willis gets to flex his chops as an actor, a little more than the likes of his next Die Hard film might allow him. Levitt, as always, is a class act and steals nearly every scene he is in. Emily Blunt is introduced as a romantic interest but also caretaker of a young boy who Old Joe is intent on taking out, in order to preserve his perfect future which he has fought so hard to get. While Young Joe may not really care too much about some kid who may or may not do something in the future, what unfolds is a battleground for nature and nurture as well as destiny and human volition.
All the cliche elements of a good future-sci-fi movie are in here. People with futuristic technology, those who refuse to upgrade, refugees of some unknown disaster that threw the Western World into an apparent dystopia, are all elements in this movie. Together they stitch a unique enough pattern to pass as "original". The film has a shocker of an ending and a complicated path for the protagonist leading up to the final moments. One could easily sit down and pick apart plot holes, this is frequently done in most any movie with time-travel. Once time-travel is introduced, the necessity of any other dilemma seems almost infantile in comparison to such technology existing. Thankfully, the film shies away from over using this point and instead springboards off it as a catalyst to a turn of events that may or may not change the future.
A great popcorn flick, a winner for someone looking for a fun night at the movies, but far from the heavy-hitting drama and creativity of such films like Inception or Blade Runner. Definitely check this movie out, expect lots of fun and one big punch, but only the one. Finally, keep your ears open for Bruce Willis' wonderful, trademarked, favorite word. Starts with a mother and ends with a word you would never say to her.