“Thirty years from now was yesterday,” says Old Joe (Bruce Willis) to his younger self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). “Time travel – it doesn’t matter.” “It fries your brain,” says mobster Abe (Jeff Daniels). Old Joe comes from 2074, sent back 30 years by mobsters to be assassinated in 2044, where this sci-fi thriller’s action is set. Young Joe is a “looper,” drug-addled hitman who dispatches targets and incinerates their bodies. But, failing to kill his older self, he “lets his loop run,” with consequences both complicated and dangerous.
Does young Joe kill Old Joe before Old Joe finds and dispatches “The Rainmaker”? Who is “The Rainmaker”? Must the future be this dystopian? See “Looper” for answers to these and other questions.
First-rate performances by Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are among the many pleasures of this film. Willis is Old Joe — 30 years older than himself as young Jo — played by Gordon-Levitt. Their complementary performances are the heart of the story, especially in a face-to-face conversation over steak and eggs at an isolated diner, where they talk about life, death and love. “My memories aren’t memories,” says Willis. “They are only possibilities.” Old Joe mixes wistfulness and rage. Young Joe is just starting to find his way.
Others in the excellent cast include Emily Blunt as Sara, lonely single mother whose 5-year old son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) may — or may not — be a critical — if unseen — character in 2074. Jeff Daniels is Abe, brutal and chilling mobster sent from the future to “manage” the loopers. Paul Dano and Noah Segan are Seth and Kid Blue, gat men who work for Abe. Piper Perabo is young Joe’s friend Suzie. Summer Qing is Old Joe’s wife.
“Looper” is smart and compelling, a sci-fi thriller with excellent performances, gripping story and don’t-take-your-eyes-off-the-screen visuals. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, it’s the best sci-fi, time-travel film since “Twelve Monkeys” (1995) and the “Terminator” franchise. Like Old Joe, “Looper” loops back on itself, so pay attention to the story but, as Old Joe says, “Time travel doesn’t matter.” Because director Johnson keeps things moving, there’s little time (so to speak) to ponder the story’s improbabilities. Watch for clever cuts, editing, elegant camera work, and stunning images, including homage to Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” (1959).
“Looper” is rated R for strong violence, language, sexuality, nudity, and drugs. It runs 118 minutes. It’s about life, death, love, memories, the future, and regrets. If you liked “Inception” (2010), you’ll like “Looper.” I saw it twice. Discuss the plot’s logical problems on the way home.
Nifty sci-fi thriller,
Time travel “Looper,”
Smart script’s a killer,