If you’re fed up with the same ol’ same old from Hollywood, take heart: Rian Johnson’s Looper is unlike anything you’ve seen. Part sci-fi mystery, part time-travel-infused action-adventure and part heartbreaking drama, it’s simply astounding.
Who’s in it? Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Joe), Bruce Willis (Old Joe), Emily Blunt (Sara), Paul Dano (Seth), Noah Segan (Kid Blue), Jeff Daniels (Abe)
What’s it about? After time travel is invented (and then quickly outlawed) in the 2070s, a criminal organization uses the technology to send its targets back to the year 2044 in order to be executed on the spot by Loopers. Loopers get their name from the fact that one day the target they assassinate will be an older version of themselves (and then they’ll have “closed their loop”—in return for a huge payday). However, when Old Joe is sent back to be offed but manages to evade Young Joe’s bullet, chaos erupts.
What’s good? Pretty much everything. From the smart dialogue that pokes fun at how confusing time-travel logic is if you make the mistake of stopping to think about it, to the superb makeup and effects that convince you Gordon-Levitt is indeed a young Bruce Willis, to the incredible detail poured into the creation of a dystopian United States that’s quite (depressingly) believable, it’s hard to find fault with this movie. A diner scene where the two Joes confront each other is particularly exceptional.
One of the best things about Looper, however, is that its previews haven’t spoiled it for you. I don’t intend to, either, so just trust that its story is about so, so much more than a cat-and-mouse chase involving a guy and the older version of himself he’s supposed to have blown away. It’s about relationships (both with oneself and others), regret, the depths to which the fear of loss can drive someone, and the fiercest kind of unconditional love. It’s also about how hard it is to figure out the “right” thing to do. This is definitely a film that makes you wonder, “What would I have done?”
The last act veers off in a very unexpected direction, and it was a direction I didn’t think I liked at first. But then I thought and thought and thought some more about the film as a whole. Quite frankly, I couldn’t get Looper out of my head for days, and am now planning to see it again (which I hardly ever do) because I ended up falling in love with its message and its sheer audacity. It gets dark—really dark—in spots, but that’s because writer/director Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) stayed true to his characters’ motivations throughout. That’s hard to find these days for a reason: filmmakers are well aware that people go to the movies for escapism, and it’s risky to force audiences to not only think, but also feel something so deeply it rattles their core. That’s the effect Looper had on me. I can’t shake it. But I don’t want to.
What could’ve been better? There’s a bordering-on-overdone plot thread involving Kid Blue, a henchman employed by Joe’s boss Abe (Jeff Daniels, in a performance that might make you forget it wasn’t him who played The Big Lebowski‘s “Dude”), that I grew tired of by the end. Kid Blue is sent to capture—and, presumably, kill—BOTH Joes after Old Joe escapes assassination, and his efforts just seemed distracting.
The bottom line: See. This. Movie. Even if you don’t love Looper as much as I did, you”ll no doubt appreciate Johnson’s fresh and clever vision, as well as his cast’s incredible performances. And my bet is that you’ll still be thinking about Looper days later, too.