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Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Movie Review: LOOPER

Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano

What is a looper? That may be the question on everyone’s mind as they step in to see the latest film by Rian Johnson, the creative mind behind Brick and The Brothers Bloom. A looper is a trained assassin whose sole job is to kill a person sent back in time from the future. In 2074, time travel will be invented and outlawed. The city is overrun by crime and corruption and humans have trackers in them. For these crime bosses, it has become nearly impossible to dispose of a body without it being found by the tracking device. For each victim, they tie the person up, cover their head, and attach a plate of silver bars to them and send them back to 2044. The looper will shoot the person the moment it arrives before they have a chance to escape. They will then properly dispose of it by dumping it into an incinerator. The silver bars are their payment. A looper’s job is all in the hands of the crime bosses. At any moment the loop can be closed if the crime boss sends the future version of the looper back to the past to be killed.

In 2044, Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt) seems to be an expert at his job. He is at the corn field, weapon in one hand, time piece in another, waiting for the moment the body shows up. He spends his spare time at an exotic club and fools around with one of the dancers (Perabo). The future of his job comes into question one night when his best friend Seth (Dano) comes to his apartment in a scared frantic panic. Seth explains to Joe that his future self showed up to close the loop. Seth freaked out and didn’t shoot his future self in time and he escaped. Before he escaped, he revealed that there is a future crime boss known as The Rainmaker that is closing all of the loops. Their boss Abe (Daniels) sends out his hit men to Joe’s apartment looking for Seth.

Things get further complicated for Joe when his next assignment shows up and it is revealed that it is the future version of himself (Willis). Joe panics and Future Joe escapes. They eventually meet again in a diner to discuss what is going on in the future. Future Joe describes his capture by The Rainmaker and how his wife was killed in the process. Now that Future Joe is back in 2044, he is intent at killing The Rainmaker as a child in order to save his wife. Joe traces a map back to a farmhouse where he meets Sara (Blunt) and her son Cid who could potentially be The Rainmaker. Romance becomes another kink in the plot the more time Joe spends with Sara.

Time travel is a tricky genre to get right for the audience. I feel like if it starts to get convoluted, you will lose the audience as they get more and more confused. If it is too simple, the audience will see right passed the story and predict the outcome. It has never really been my favorite genre for these reasons. Looper gets it right by setting its own time travel rules and sticking to them all the while throwing in some curveballs to keep you guessing on what will happen next. Johnson allows the film and story to have some fun at the same time. The idea of the future of technology includes paper thin cell phones and computers, hover craft style motorcycles, and heavy duty ammunition. The violence and gun shots are stylistically over-the-top.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one fantastic young actor working in Hollywood today. This is his third of four movies released in 2012 following The Dark Knight Rises and Premium Rush. His next, Lincoln, will be released in November. He consistently picks different genres and styles of projects and excels at each one of them. He completely nails the Bruce Willis vocal and physical mannerisms making the connection between the two of them completely believable. The make-up work is fantastic at turning Gordon-Levitt into the younger version of Willis. Emily Blunt goes outside her usual romantic comedy genre and transforms herself into the dowdy look of Sara. It’s a far cry from the elegant and posh Blunt I imagine her to be. Don’t let the time travel concept turn you away. Looper is an original thrill ride in the same way The Terminator was for its time. The concept is stylish and jaw-dropping and will keep you guessing until the end. Plus, it has Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. Win and Win.

RATING: **** 1/2 ( 4.5 out of 5 stars)

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  1. Good review Paul. The cast is great, especially JGL who has been having a stellar career so far, but the plot it what really kept me interested as it continued to throw twist-after-twist at me, without any confusion whatsoever. It’s a great sci-fi flick that actually makes sense.

    1. Dan- Thanks for being such a loyal follower. I applaud JGL for the career he has had and the choices he has made. He could have easily fizzled after 3rd Rock from the Sun and Angels in the Outfield, but he kept working and proving himself. I am really looking forward to Lincoln. Everything about it has me excited.