Back from the Future

Writer/director Rian Johnson burst onto the independent film scene in 2005 with Brick, a spin on the classic film noir genre set in a modern day high school.  That movie starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt and helped the actor get out of the shadow of his “3rd Rock from the Sun” persona.  Gordon-Levitt also had a brief cameo in Johnson’s follow-up to Brick, 2008’s The Brothers Bloom.  That movie was not quite as innovative as its predecessor, but was entertaining nonetheless.   Having tackled the noir and con artist genres, the actor and director now re-team for the sci-fi thriller Looper, a movie that starts with a bang…literally.

The movie is set in Kansas in the year 2044 and presents us with a future that is overrun with crime and poverty.  Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, who works as a special kind of assassin for the mob.  Joe uses voiceover narration to explain that time travel will be invented in the future, but quickly outlawed, leaving it to be used only by those who live and work outside the law.  When someone crosses the mob in the future, they are sent back to 2044 where Joe and other “Loopers” kill them, leaving no body to be discovered in the future.  When the mob wishes to cancel a Looper’s contract, the future version of the Looper is sent back and killed by their younger self; thus “closing the loop.”  The Looper then gets a golden payday to live out his remaining thirty years.

Gordon-Levitt as Joe in LooperLately, it seems like a lot of loops are being closed.  Still, Joe is shocked when he suddenly finds himself staring down his future self.  After a couple of narrow escapes, the two Joes find themselves face to face at a coffee shop where future Joe explains that in the future, a mysterious man known as “The Rainmaker” has taken over and he is systematically eliminating the Loopers.  He also explains that this man killed his wife in the future and he has now come back to eliminate him before he has a chance to take over.  Current-day Joe knows, however, that he must eliminate his future self if he wishes to avoid his boss’s savage henchmen.  After his future self escapes, young Joe decides to wait for him at a farmhouse where he knows he will be arriving shortly.

On the surface, the plot may sound like Terminator without the cyborgs, but the actual movie feels nothing like the Schwarzenegger franchise.  In fact, Looper turns out to be a pretty original action thriller, which is difficult to find nowadays.  The twisty plot is enough to keep you interested while questioning where the story is going to go next and the action is exciting and cool to watch.

As the older Joe, Bruce Willis shows up and does what Bruce Willis does best, especially in a later scene when he rampages through his boss’ nightclub.  Meanwhile, having delivered excellent supporting performances in action-packed movies like Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, Gordon-Levitt is quietly developing into quite the action star.  Who’d have thought?

The logic behind having Joseph Gordon-Levitt wear face prosthetics in order to look more like Bruce Willis is sound, but you have to question whether it was ultimately necessary.  Instead of producing the desired “hey, he looks just like a young Bruce Willis” result, what is most likely going through the audiences’ mind is “why does Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face look different?”  Had the prosthetics not been used, it would have been less of a distraction and likely no one would have even questioned whether they could indeed be the same person.

The movie does lag a little bit in the middle when it has to slow down and explain its complicated plot before revealing the big payoff in the end, but that payoff is well worth the wait.

Looper is rated R for “strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.”  Director Johnson does not hold back on the violence, so expect plenty of blood flying.  There are also a few scenes of nudity and Joe is drug addict.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Looper.