It is absolutely glorious when intelligent sci-fi not only re-emerges, but returns and flourishes with spectacular results. Tucked neatly into this technologically and sometimes extraterrestrial genre of film is time travel. While time travel films aren’t always done right, when they are they make one hell of an impact; the “Back to the Future” films, the “Terminator” films, “Donnie Darko,” “Time Bandits,” “Twelve Monkeys,” “Source Code,” and the fantastic little Spanish film “Timecrimes” are just a few examples. Combine that potential with the impressive writer/director Rian Johnson and an incredible cast that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, and Emily Blunt and you have one of the most anticipated films of the year on your hands with “Looper.”
In the year 2044, time travel has not yet been invented but 30 years from now it will have been. After being labeled as illegal, the ability to leap through time is only available on the black market. People who criminal organizations want to get rid of are sent back to 2044 where hired guns called “loopers” dispose of them. Loopers make very good money and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is living the good life. When a looper’s contract nears its expiration, the mob sends back their future self who they then get rid of and have the next 30 years to live their life. It’s called “closing the loop.” But when Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) is sent back, his life is turned upside down.
While you may not be able to totally buy that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a younger version of Bruce Willis based on looks alone (even with the use of prosthetics), Gordon-Levitt does deserve credit for developing the ability to act like Willis along with similar facial expressions, mannerisms, and body language. Bruce Willis’ character is a really interesting piece of the puzzle. The older version of Joe is committing some of the most heinous crimes imaginable, but his reasoning for it is just. As you’re shown his back story, you understand what he’s going through and almost find yourself rooting for him. He’s like a villain with heart.
Emily Blunt is really fantastic. This might be the most straightforward and emotional that she has ever been in any performance. The addition of her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) may make or break the film for you as it goes down a path that may find you comparing it to other films. The Cid character is an intriguing one though as his emotions are out of control, but his intentions are good and he’s fairly amusing more often than not. While Paul Dano doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, it’s amazing that that underhanded smarminess he’s often associated with is still able to shine through.
This is Rian Johnson’s best work by a landslide and that’s coming from someone who absolutely loves his first two films. While the concept is somewhat familiar, it’s always going in places you don’t expect them to go. Seth’s (Paul Dano) side plot is around the time your jaw will hit the floor. The ending is really magnificent, as well. It feels tragic on one hand, but extremely fitting on the other. While the soundtrack seems to kind of pick and choose its moments to really stand out, there are a few instances where it’s emotionally overwhelming. It will only get better in repeat viewings and listens.
“Looper” is an astounding piece of cinema no matter how you slice it. Featuring fantastic performances from the entire cast, absorbing cinematography, and one of the most unique concepts for a film in quite some time, “Looper” is one of the most creative, intelligent, and unpredictable films of the year.