Film Reviews

Over a plate of eggs, Bruce Willis gets Oedipal with his younger, homicidal self (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).

Head’s up, film buffs: Looper is the best pop sci-fi movie in years

Beautifully put together, intelligently handled, wonderfully acted–and full of surprises–writer-director Rian Johnson’s Looper, a Mobius strip of a time-travel movie, is destined to be a classic, one movie buffs have been awaiting a long while.

Twenty minutes in, and you know you’re in the hands of inspired moviemakers, chief among them the writer-director, who blends sci-fi and moving drama so adroitly that it becomes a real movie, not the usual toy sci-fi-er made for people who grew up on “dramatic” TV series. Rian Johnson’s first two movies (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) were superior examples of their genre but did not prepare us for this masterly assemblage of cinematic and story-telling techniques, chock full of surprises and revelations.

You might be soured on time-travel movies, but don’t let that dissuade you in this case. Of course time-travel movies are usually juvenilized and predictable (as well as preposterous), but Looper is so twisty and turn-y it keeps your attention and curiosity. This is a movie to respect as well as to like.

A full synopsis will injure your appreciation; we’ll give you just enough to consider. It’s 2044, and time travel has been invented, if not perfected. As a result the mob in the year 2074 employs hit men (“loopers”) to kill enemies (in 2044), thus erasing them from the future (2074). Got that?

This story works in every possible way, even turning it into legitimate drama. And, of course, it also is bloodily violent. And this writer didn’t mind a bit.

Our main-character looper (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has an assignment–to kill, according to the new future mob leader, himself (Bruce Willis) in 2074. But, you ask, why would Gordon-Levitt do that? Well, we’re not going to tell you. TMI spoils the movie-going experience, in our opinion.

The cast? Gordon-Levitt and Willis have never been better. As the present-day mob coordinator, Jeff Daniels practically steals the movie, and the love interest (Emily Blunt) soars, making more of her part than we at first expect. And her role complicates Gordon-Levitt’s decision to kill the future mob leader, who, in 2044, is still a kid. As our hero goes in that pursuit, he and we ask ourselves: Could this future mob leader be the l0-year-old son of Blunt?

A lot more sub-plots buoy up this story, as do beautifully staged action sequences. The director and crew squeeze all the possible juice out of the plot and characters. Mix in strong helpings of telekinesis, and you’ve got a movie never predictable and never flagging. Director Johnson has risen to the top with one movie, far better than recent sci-fi-ers (like l6mm). It should do wonders in home viewing after its successful theatre release.