The film “Looper” does something with time travel that no other science fiction film or book has ever done with the concept — it completely glosses over it.
But it does so while still respecting the audience’s intelligence in this character-driven story of a new kind of mob hit man.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for the mob as a “looper,” an assassin tasked with killing targets transported through time by their employers. These loopers are paid handsomely for their work, assuming their targets never escape.
When employers decide to end a looper’s contract, what they call, “closing the loop,” the looper of the future is sent back to the past to be whacked. But it isn’t always clean.
Joe is surprised to learn that his next hit is his future self, played by Bruce Willis.
What ensues is a struggle for both Gordon-Levitt and Willis to keep their own lives.
Failing to close his loop, Gordon-Levitt demonstrates his capacity for diligence and evolution as Joe to convey the depth of his character.
“Looper” takes an exciting turn for the better once we see Willis’ version of Joe.
You would think this is where the nuts and bolts of time travel are explained but as Willis says to his younger self: “I don’t want to talk about time travel.”
This is when the film’s to the point approach kicks in; we know by now time travel has created a critical situation, so there’s no need to lose ourselves in the specifics of it. Time travel works, and that’s that.
Director Rian Johnson creates a bleak future where we can see how much the world really hasn’t changed (with the exception of time travel). Old cars are still in use and the economy hasn’t gotten any better.
Johnson’s screenplay manages to be ingenious without being simpleminded. The film contains a number of well-placed surprises, such as the discoveries Willis makes during his search for the mysterious “Rainmaker.” There is not a moment in this film that feels expected or predictable; even the action sequences manage to instill a sense of awe and exhilaration.
I was pleased to see Willis step into a layered character’s shoes after a long string of action films. It was exciting to see him go toe-to-toe with Gordon-Levitt during their scenes together, either through dialogue or battling it out through brutal force. Their conversation in the diner is one of the film’s memorable scenes: watching the two different Joes look each other in the eye while locked in a verbal confrontation was all that was needed to convince me they were one and the same.
It’s not until Emily Blunt’s character Sara is introduced that the soul of “Looper” emerges. Blunt was the real reason I decided to check out “Looper;” given her strong performance and chemistry with Gordon-Levitt, my reason is not unfounded. While she does appear late in the film, the impact she leaves behind is sufficient to compensate.
With a straightforward yet brilliant attitude towards time travel, as well as respect for its characters, “Looper” distinguishes itself as one of the more remarkable sci-fi films we’ve seen in the 21st century.
When: Now playing
Where: Wide Release
Run Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes