Looper, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as younger and older versions of the same person, is a deliciously complex and fast-paced sci-fi thriller that’s likely to satisfy both, fans of popcorn movies and those seeking more cerebral entertainment.
Set in 2044, the film stars Gordon-Levitt as Joe, a low-level hitman – or a Looper – working for mobsters in the year 2074, who use an illegal time machine to send their victims back three decades to be killed by these hired hands. The killings themselves aren’t elaborate affairs. Joe waits in a remote field for his target to materialize out of thin air, shoots them at close range, and disposes the bodies. Things get hairy when Joe’s latest victim turns out to be an older version of himself, played by Willis. Young Joe hesitates momentarily,giving Old Joe the chance he needed to escape. Now, Young Joe must find Old Joe and kill him(self) before the mob does.
Sure it all sounds like a bit of a stretch, and it is. But director Rian Johnson keeps you consistently on your toes by throwing interesting ideas at you from all directions. He also keeps the action pumping as Young Joe sets out to track down Old Joe, who is himself on the trail of a mysterious 10-year-old kid he wants to kill.
Meanwhile, Jeff Daniels cameos as Joe’s menacing mobster boss Abe, who’s never thrilled when loopers let their older selves escape; and Emily Blunt shows up around midway into the film as a pretty farmer and fiercely protective single mum who takes pity on Young Joe.
Brimming with energy, Looper is many things rolled into one – a chase movie in its first half, a time-travel thriller with nods to The Terminator and Twelve Monkeys, and it even culminates nicely as a bittersweet moral drama. A few subplots remain curiously unresolved, but for the most part this is ambitious, audacious storytelling.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, fitted with prosthetics to look more like Bruce Willis, exudes toughness and vulnerability, while Willis goes for steely determination. Together the two actors form the brain and the brawn of this remarkably original film.
I’m going with four out of five for Looper. It’s a smart film with thrills – now how often do you get to see one of those?