Excess Hollywood: ‘Looper’ geniusly thought-provoking and full of heart

Not since “Inception” has a science fiction film so fully realized its world and brilliantly executed its intricate story as “Looper.” And for the time travel subgenre, this is a defining work.

The central premise revolves around a not-too-distant future where specialized assassins called loopers kill targets sent to them from 30 years in the future (where time travel exists, only used in secret by the mob). When a looper’s contract is up, his future self is sent back to be killed by his younger self. But Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) breaks the only rule: never let your loop run.

When his older self (Bruce Willis) appears, he escapes from the younger Joe, leading the narrative into a much deeper rabbit hole. As young Joe attempts to recapture his future before his employers hunt him down for his mistake, old Joe sets out on a bloody quest to change something in the past and thus alter the future.

The plot only grows in complexity from there, as writer/director Rian Johnson impeccably manipulates your attention from one story thread to another, slowly peeling the film’s layers back to reveal one exciting element after another.

On the surface a slick, detailed atmosphere and suspenseful, clever action sequences pull you in. But it’s the thought-provoking implementation of time travel, geniusly twisting narrative and most importantly the movie’s compelling characters that push it above and beyond.

Johnson reinvented the old-school detective noir by placing it in a high school setting in his riveting debut “Brick.” With “Looper,” he shows the ambition of Christopher Nolan — albeit with action on a smaller scope — and he proves just as cerebrally intensive while injecting more heart and humor into his film than Nolan does in his works.

The most satisfying balancing act is that of the two Joes. Gordon-Levitt’s impressive makeup job really does make him look the part. However, it’s his hard-ass disposition and confident speech that convincingly embody a young Willis. And Willis gets his classic persona of the unstoppable one-man army enhanced, deepened by an astoundingly implemented backstory that puts a sympathetic warmth underneath the killer exterior.

It’s fascinating how they interact with each other, from their spellbinding scenes together to how the actions of young Joe affect old Joe. Clearly Johnson has painstakingly thought through the details and rules of this world. How he makes viewers care equally about both characters while simultaneously hoping they each succeed against the other plays a huge part in why “Looper” is such an enthralling experience.

Very little cinema will be more worth your time this year.

  • Updated Jan. 27, 2013 at 11:45 pm
  • Edited by Sarah McCabe
  • Randy Kirklle

    There are so many positive reviews out about this movie. A few of my officemates at DISH are going to see it and invited me but I prefer to watch movies at home so I think I’ll wait on this one. It does look like a great movie so I put it on my Blockbuster @Home queue. That way I will get it in the mail when it’s released on DVD and I can send it back when I’m done. I think the idea of him having to kill his future self is really intriguing. I can’t wait to watch this one!