Jumping between the years 2044 and 2074, the sci-fi thriller Looper is about a hit man whose next and final target is himself. In this near future, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) serves as a “looper,” a hit man tasked with killing and disposing of criminals who have run afoul of the mob. But these victims come from 30 years in the future where time-travel exists but is illegal. The mob, however, employs it to transport their victims into the past since getting rid of a body is just that much tougher in 2074.
Joe’s work is all very mechanical: kill, dispose, kill, dispose. Loopers are relatively low on the criminal totem pole (“Gat Men” are the more elite of the future mob’s henchmen). The worse thing a Looper can do is let their loop get away as that brings all sorts of hell down on them. And every Looper knows that at some point, the mob will “close your loop,” or send your future self back for you to terminate. Joe’s troubles begin when his older self (Bruce Willis) is sent back for him to kill, but promptly escapes.
Older Joe has his own very specific mission in 2044, one that leads him to a young mom named Sara (Emily Blunt) and her troubled little boy, Cid (an impressive Pierce Gagnon). That’s all we’ll give away for now suffice to say that the dilemma for both Joes is deciding between the life you can make for yourself now or the one you will have in the future.
Looper is sci-fi, but not garishly so. It’s set in a future that’s quite familiar and relatable, one determined by economic and sociopolitical woes. Sure, there are cool hover bikes, but only a few can afford them; otherwise, people drive 30-year-old cars since manufacturing appears to have ceased in this bleak future America. There are looters and homeless aplenty on the streets, and not much in the way of law enforcement. The most popular narcotic, which young Joe is addicted to, can be used like eye drops. This is a future where people make do with what’s left.
Even Loopers’ weapon of choice is decidedly old school: the Blunderbuss. The genetic mutation of telekinesis exists, but it’s not as exciting as you’d think, being deemed more of a tacky parlor trick than anything truly extraordinary. All of these choices by writer-director Rian Johnson (who previously directed JGL in Brick) and his team make Looper a decidedly understated sci-fi film where the emphasis remains on the characters rather than the genre trappings of the future world they inhabit.
Johnson weaves a taut narrative around his rather convoluted, but high concept premise; it’s a testament to his skill that you never find yourself picking apart how things exactly all click. You’re simply along for the ride since you care about these characters, which is even more impressive given how unsympathetic Joe is for much of the movie. He’s paid in silver like a Judas, kills people without any real qualms, and is ruthlessly self-centered. His older self is more sympathetic … until you learn his game plan. Both Gordon-Levitt and Willis never demand the audiences’ sympathy; they simply let you come to your own conclusions about Joe as being either an anti-hero or a villain.
No discussion of Looper and its two lead performances can be had without talking about the makeup worn by Gordon-Levitt throughout. It’s initially distracting to see the young actor’s face altered by prosthetics so as to resemble a young Bruce Willis, an illusion they never quite pull off. But it’s Gordon-Levitt’s replication of Willis’ mannerisms, attitude and low, slightly mumbling voice that sells you after a few moments of settling into things. Willis plays a supporting role here, but he has several key emotional scenes (often with minimal dialogue) that allow him to shine. Some of his best moments come in a diner scene with young Joe where the term “self abuse” takes on a whole new meaning.
Blunt is nicely cast against type as an earthy, American single mom whose complicated relationship with her little boy becomes even more so about halfway through. We’re used to seeing Blunt as a funny or somewhat prissy English rose-type, and she’s clearly having fun playing someone far more damaged and salt of the earth. Jeff Daniels steals his scenes as young Joe’s gruff, but amiable mob boss and father figure Abe, while Paul Dano and Garret Dillahunt have small, but memorable roles as colleagues of young Joe’s. Piper Perabo appears as a stripper and single mom young Joe is banging. (Go, Joe!)
Looper is one of the year’s most engaging sci-fi films, one that works as both a thriller and a character piece about people faced with making big life decisions (often at the business end of Blunderbuss). It could have all been insanely gimmicky, but Looper is instead tastefully executed.
Source : feeds[dot]ign[dot]com