Robust characters facing tricky decisions of not only survival, but greater than life-and-death moral choices, provide an edgy crust to Rian Johnson’s highly entertaining action time travel flick, Looper. Johnson (the delightful Brick, the beguiling The Brothers Bloom) instantly enters the Christopher Nolan-realm of directors with just his third film. Totally in control, he bobs and weaves Looper between sheer visceral thrills and more thoughtful notions as he finally even whips up a loftier than might be expected ending devoid of clumsiness.
It’s 2044, see, and time travel has no sooner been invented than it quickly becomes outlawed. Of course, the no-good criminals of the future get a hold of it and dispense with sending their unlucky victims to the past (roughly our present) for a quick hit job, performed by “Loopers.” One such Looper is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who lives high on the hog but is constantly on the edge. Seems our future mobsters don’t like any loose ends so after their Looper hitmen reach a certain age they themselves become the hunted in an effort to “close the loop.” It’s when a Looper is ordered to take out his own future self that things get complicated. Only problem: if that future self is Bruce Willis, closing the loop isn’t going to be easy. Having a whole lot at stake, he’s not exactly cooperative.
Willis isn’t the only wily veteran actor capable of cutting through whatever nonsense is in front of him. Dropped into the present from the future, Jeff Daniels is outstanding as the enforcer who oversees any irregularities in the ordered assassinations. Tough as nails would be too meek a description of this guy. He doesn’t even need the gray and depressing industrial warehouse prop he calls home to establish his nastiness. It’s only when Willis comes on the screen a little later that we realize the bearded and too-calm -to-be-nice Daniels just may just be only the second meanest dude in this movie.
The two Joes finally meet in a diner. No matter they look about as alike as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. What follows is a hilarious scene that summarily intends to put to rest any technical difficulties the viewer is having with the film’s arrogant if brilliant conception and ensuing plot plausibility. Given Willis’ force of character, it largely works. Dispensing our concern for a nuts and bolts dissection of the film’s believability is an essential ingredient for getting the most out of Johnson’s gritty fun. Excuse me while I just enjoy the film, thank you. Why analyze time travel when it can be strikingly used a set-up for bigger and better sensations? And what a jaunty ride Levitt and Willis provide. They don’t exactly see eye to eye on a plan of action. My, my how Joe has changed in 30 years! How will these two manifestations of the same guy, as different as oil and water, reconcile things?
Leave it to a very believable single-mom farmer gal with a gun and a young son. Her introduction fails to diffuse the film’s pluck the way a a tacked-on romantic interest could, but actually steps it up a notch. The dramatic dilemma presented by this wood chopping gal played by an excellent Emily Blunt (is it me or has she done at least half-dozen films this year?) rings true as a bell. Seems she may be harboring a future take-over-the-world despot in that very son, who will scare the hell out of you. This refreshingly enriches things, allowing Looper to transcend its very good action movie roots, evolving into a more rarefied plane reserved for films that successfully embrace a certain humanity. Both ticklingly taut and mercifully moving, Looper bridges the gap between the summer’s popcorn movies and the autumn’s more elevated fare. Johnson performs the rare feat of combining the best of both worlds.
4 I-Am-You-and-You-Are-Me-And-We-Are-Both-Bruce-Willis’s (out of 5)