Time travel movies don’t always work. Despite the ambition of most films, too often they fall apart when they fail to fill in the plot holes left by the unending paradoxes left open by jumping back and forth throughout a timeline. “Looper” the brilliant new sci-fi action thriller from director Rian Johnson manages to avoid those mistakes on its way to become one of the most original and intelligent movies of the year.
Set in a futuristic Kansas City, “Looper”, introduces a world where time travel is invented in the year 2074 and considered illegal. Criminal organizations use it to off people, transporting them back in time, head covered in a shroud, to the year 2044, where an assassin is waiting to blow them away and get rid of the body. These assassins are called Loopers. The only catch is that one day, these Loopers will have to eliminate themselves, at which point they retire with a fortune and are free to enjoy the rest of their lives until the point where they are looped back for elimination.
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Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a Looper who, despite his considerable drug problem, is one of the best and most reliable Loopers in the business. When the day comes that his future self (played by Bruce Willis) is looped back, young Joe hesitates long enough that future Joe gets away. This is never good news for a Looper. Hunted by his employers, young Joe vows to track down his future self and eliminate him so that he can live out the 30-year retirement he has earned. Along the way, he meets a woman, Sarah (Emily Blunt) and her son, the devilishly cute Pierce Gagnon, who become targets of the elder Joe as the tries to save the future and the life he has come to love from an evil future tyrant with dangerous telekinetic abilities.
Both Gordon-Levitt and Willis have had terrific years—JGL with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Premium Rush” and Willis with a memorable performance in “Moonrise Kingdom”—and they both of them are incredible in the dual role of Joe. Gordon-Levitt, touched up with a remarkable make up job to give him the physical likeness and crooked nose of a young Bruce Willis, does the rest on his own, perfecting the scowl, squint and mannerisms of Willis. As his counterpart, Willis himself has several moments where he merges a couple of Gordon-Levitt’s trademark boyish smirks into his performance.
Director Rian Johnson, know for directing Gordon-Levitt in the 2005 high school detective-noir thriller, “Brick”, delivers a mind-twisting action thriller that is not only one of the best action movies of the year but one of the best science-fiction flicks in recent memory. As with any movie that hinges on time travel for a plot device, there are questions about the consistencies between the time lines but thankfully, “Looper” is smart enough not to get trapped in a corner, instead offering an intelligent and creative spin on well-worn science fiction material. Johnson, who also wrote the screenplay, may be establishing himself as one of the next big time go-to directors. He has shown a strong ability to create interesting characters and put them through a wringer of difficult emotional and moral decisions.
Across the board, “Looper” hits the nail on the head. From beginning to end the film is smart, exciting and unpredictable. The film bucks all trends of time travel movies but not getting snagged by plot holes and inconsistencies and instead spins a fascinating and thrilling adventure. With tremendous performances by both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, the flick will end up going down as one of, if not the best action movie of the year.
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