Looper is a time traveling thriller that reminds us that classic science fiction doesn’t come from quality visuals or the biggest explosions. There’s no denying that “Looper” is an exquisitely crafted picture with some heart pounding action set pieces. But the reason the film warrants such praise is because of its inspired ideas, brilliant execution, and the involving characters we follow along the way. Director and writer Rian Johnson obviously had a clear artistic vision going into this project and never allowed the studio or conventions to stand in his way. His product is one of the slickest and smartest movies about time travel in a long time.
After “The Lookout,” “500 Days of Summer,” “Inception,” “50/50,” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been one of the most impressive winning streaks of any actor working today. In “Looper,” he’s poised with the style and class of a first-rate film noir anti-hero as Joe, a hit man in the year 2042. In another 30 years, time travel will be invented and instantly outlawed. Criminals see this illegal technology as an ideal way to dispose of their targets. They capture their victims, send them back in time, and then hit men such as Joe kill them on sight. Unfortunately for the assassins, there cannot be any loose ends. At some point, Joe’s future self will be sent back in time and he’ll be forced to kill him. Although Joe will be compensated for this sacrifice with a golden payday, it’s hard to enjoy such wealth knowing that your days are numbered.
The inevitable day comes when Joe comes face-to-face with future Joe, played by a balding Bruce Willis. Things don’t exactly go according to protocol though as future Joe gets away. Jeff Daniels is excellent as Abe, the scruffy, droll boss in charge of taking out both Joe’s. The fugitive Joe of the present believes that he can set matters right by tracking down future Joe and killing him. Little does present Joe realize that he might have potential to find true happiness in the next 30 years.
Nobody plays one-man armies better than Willis. He continues to preserve his perennial boss status here, gleefully kicking ass more than any male in his late-50’s is expected to. Along with Levitt, he is impeccably cast as old Joe, who is hell-bent on preserving his life at all cost. While these men have their human errors, they’re both likable characters that deserve to have everything work out. As matters grow more complicated though, it becomes less likely that both Joes will come out as winners.
Another great performance comes from Emily Blunt as Sara, a shotgun wielding farm girl who doesn’t take kindly to unwelcomed guests. Through a series of events, Sara gets caught up in Joe’s affairs. This additionally endangers the life of her little boy, played by the charismatic Pierce Gargnon, who has a key role in Joe’s future. The relationship young Joe develops with these two is a momentous one as he goes from sticking his neck out for nobody to learning the worth of family.
Halfway through “Looper,” one might think that they have the entire film figured out. Johnson’s sharp screenplay always keeps us on edge though as various plot points cleverly come together. The ending in particular is unexpected and may leave some audiences in a less than upbeat mood. Yet, it’s really the only appropriate way to conclude this nifty film.
Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.