Breakthroughs in technology are usually exploited in two places: commercials and porn. Combine the two, and you get a bastardized version of the Mob. When time travel is both created and then outlawed by the year 2073, the Mob in the future uses it to transport their intended murder victims into the past where a “Looper” waits to shoot them. Then the Mob in the future doesn’t have to dispose of a body. These Loopers, however, eventually have to also be disposed of, and the Looper’s future self is eventually sent back to the past to be killed by his past self. This is called “closing the loop.” When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) does not kill his future self, it’s a problem.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I love time travel movies. I love looking for holes in the relays between past and future and back again, and Looper covers it about as well as any. Bruce Willis plays the future Joe who, when sent back from 2073 to be killed by himself in 2043, is on the run after escaping his own death. Your immediate thought might be, “Why haven’t more Loopers escaped? They all know exactly what is going to happen. Why is Joe the only one to have done this?” That’s because when the Mob showed up at his home to take him away, they unintentionally killed his wife. Future Joe wants to change the past in order to save his future wife, but the only way to do that would be to eliminate the Mob entirely. The only way to eliminate the Mob entirely is to go back in time and hit them early and often.
When the film opens, you might say, “Huh? Joseph Gordon-Levitt?” Yes, with some facial prosthetics in order to more closely look like Bruce Willis who has a rather distinct nose. Jeff Daniels plays “Abe,” another member of the future Mob who travelled back in time to set up the Looper system. Abe is tough yet benevolent to those he likes. However, not completing a Loop is a big deal. Although Abe had gone easy on Joe on a previous occasion, this time Joe must be eliminated. So – to review: Joe needs to kill Joe. Also, Joe wants to kill Joe. Abe wants to kill both Joe and Joe. Joe wants to kill Abe, but Joe doesn’t find that necessary. Got it? Good.
Aside of all that, there’s a second plotline that kicks in that is a great boost to Joe vs. Joe. The problem is figuring out exactly how to explain it without giving too much away because the slow act of those pieces falling together is itself like reading a good mystery and slowing solving the murder yourself. When Present-day Joe flees the city and Abe’s wrath, he lands on a farm where a woman and a boy live alone. It took a second viewing to be sure that Joe was at that farm intentionally and not just through the course of chasing himself. This is where most of the second half of the film takes place, and it is a great reminder of how to write tension and drama. Person A wants outcome A. Person C wants outcome C. A doesn’t equal C. The problem is that Person B is in the middle. One wants him dead. The other wants him alive. And if Person B has the ability to kill both Persons A and C if he feels like it. It will have to left there because anything else will just say too much.
There’s a lot of shooting in Looper. I suppose it is necessary considering it’s about mobs, hitmen, retribution, and retaliation. There are also two great surprises. Sara and Cid, the woman and child on the farm, are played by Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon respectively. Both deliver fabulous performances in supporting roles, and I certainly hope to see both of them again. Gagnon, as Cid, has moments of anger, beyond anger, as well as moments that show a far advanced intelligence for such a small child. How and where this kid pulls these emotions is something I don’t even want to know. Blunt, as Sara, who may or may not be Cid’s mother, is caught between not knowing which of three men might kill her or love her or both, all while just trying to do the best she can as a vulnerable (in several ways) woman running a farm in the middle of nowhere. For those who remember Piper Perabo, she has a bit part as a “working girl” and some brief nudity. Blunt (The Adjustment Bureau, The Five-Year Engagement) bleeds more lust without removing anything, even when wearing jeans, a flannel shirt, and workboots.
If you can tolerate an above-average amount of gunfire, there’s no reason not to see Looper. It’s is a lot more than just hitmen and blood. It’s a pretty good story too, gaining 15 different screenplay wins and nominations from various film critics and local arts groups including the Writers’ Guild of America and the Chicago Film Critics Association. Available now in Redbox™ for a whopping $1 rental, you can’t beat it. And, you get to watch it again in case you missed something in this surprisingly tricky story. Teacher gives it an A-.