Looper is an example of how much I love smart trailers and movie marketing. The trailers have let you know what the premise of the film is, but they don’t give everything away in two minutes. Let’s just say that I was pretty pleasantly surprised by the parts of the film that they make sure you don’t see coming.
Looper is set in 2044 and 2074, when time travel is invented and instantly outlawed. It has also grown increasingly difficult (in 2074) to dispose of dead bodies that people don’t want found. Gangs, mobs, murderers, what have you, they all send people they want dead back to the past, hooded and packed with silver, where “loopers” wait for them in open fields, shoot them dead, and collect their payday. If these “loopers” are still alive in 30 years, they are sent back and killed, and this is called “closing the loop.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, one such “looper” in 2044, and Bruce Willis plays the older Joe in 2074. Joe knows that his loop will be closed soon, and he feels prepared for it, until his older self appears in the field without a hood. He hesitates, and older Joe escapes. Fast-forward a couple of chase scenes to both Joes sitting in a booth at a diner.
It is there that younger Joe learns that he eventually falls in love with a beautiful woman (Summer Qing) who “saves his life.” Unfortunately, she is killed by a figure known as The Rainmaker who is closing all the loops, and older Joe plans to find him in 2044 and kill him.
He makes a run for it, and younger Joe ends up stranded on a farm. There he meets tough and resilient Sara (Emily Blunt) and her five-year-old son Cid (Pierce Gagnon, who gives a haunting performance of a truly troubled child). He realizes that older Joe believes that Cid may grow up to become The Rainmaker, and that is where the predicament lies.
Gordon-Levitt and Willis are accompanied by great performances by Jeff Daniels as Abe, the mob boss in 2074 sent back in time to manage the “loopers,” Paul Dano as Seth, Joe’s best friend and fellow “looper” desperate to keep from closing his loop, and Noah Segan as Kid Blue, one of Abe’s “gat men” constantly seeking Abe’s approval.
The real star, though, is behind the scenes: writer and director Rian Johnson. He intelligently maneuvers the tricky, and often messy, concept of time travel and leaves the ending up to you. Usually, movies like this leave me frustrated (I’m talking to you, Inception), but Looper gives you enough to make an informed decision. I enjoyed it, even if I did miss Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s boyish good looks underneath the Bruce Willis-inspired prosthetics (see below).