Looper Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels
FilmDistrict | TriStar Pictures
Rated | 118 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2012
There year is 2044. Time travel has not yet been invented, but thirty years from now it will have been. When underground criminal syndicates in the future need someone gone, they zap ’em back to Loopers like Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who do the necessaries.
In 2074, it’s impossible to properly dispose of a body — too many high-tech gadgets like global positioning implants — so those ever-resourceful criminals illegally transport their targets back in time so Loopers can erase them from the future.
Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom), is a science-fiction film noir that seamlessly blends futuristic elements with the world we already know. Old, beat-up gas guzzlers have been retrofitted with solar panels and electric batteries while the rich drive sporty, state-of-the-art speeder bikes. The designer drugs of the future are taken with an eye dropper, and Loopers like Joe are paid in bricks of silver for blasting bound-and-gagged future dwellers with their blunderbusses: short, large caliber boomsticks that obliterate targets at close range.
There’s just one rule. Never let your target escape. One of Joe’s colleagues, Seth (Paul Dano), makes this fatal mistake when he discovers his latest target is the future version of himself, and instead of offing his victim (or “closing your loop”), Seth let him escape (“letting his loop run”).
The criminal organizations of the future will send a Looper’s future self back in time to “close the loop,” so the illegal activity can never be traced back to them. When a Looper closes his own loop, they get paid out in gold bricks instead of silver, allowing them to live the next 30 years in comfort before they are inevitably bagged and zapped back to their past selves for disposal.
The day finally comes when Joe (Gordon-Levitt) must close his loop, but before he can pull the trigger, his future self (played by Bruce Willis) incapacitates him and escapes. Joe’s failure at closing the loop causes his employers (lead by Jeff Daniels) to come after him, forcing him to fight for his life as he hunts Old Joe.
Gordon-Levitt wears cutting-edge prosthetics and makeup to mimic a young Bruce Willis, and nails the Die Hard star’s voice – channeling the actor’s tough, no-nonsense Jersey wiseguy delivery. It’s been a pretty fantastic year for Gordon-Levitt, who has starred in The Dark Knight Rises, Premium Rush, Looper, and can also be seen in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Lincoln. Gordon-Levitt is Hollywood’s next leading man, and what better way to showcase his chops than by portraying one of Hollywood’s most iconic stars.
Speaking of Willis, this is the best he’s been since The Sixth Sense. He takes his time, delivers a nuanced performance, and when needed, channels John McClane and blasts the shit out of mob bosses and gunmen with efficiency and panaché. Emily Blunt, who plays Sara, a young mother whose farm becomes a refuge for young Joe as he hides from his employers, also delivers a strong performance.
Aside from impressive performances and a great premise, Looper exceeds in creating a fully-realized futuristic setting. The best science-fiction films have always been the ones that create an environment that feels alive, a lived-in functioning civilization. Films like Star Wars, Blade Runner, RoboCop, and Total Recall created worlds that felt tangible and familiar.
More recent movies like Minority Report and District 9 also did a fantastic job of fleshing out the environment and turning the setting into a character. Johnson’s vision of 2044 (and 2074) are immediately recognizable and grounded in reality with subtle, logical leaps in technology.
From the fashions to the look of vehicles and weapons, the production design in Looper is top-notch – shades of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, a combination of Kansas farmland with dystopian, almost post-apocalyptic, cities looming in the distance. With Gordon-Levitt’s prosthetic-enhanced performance and an original story by one of our most promising up-and-coming directors, Looper is a must see – one of my favorite films of the year and a new standard in mind-bending modern sci-fi.