Thrown for a Looper

I have recently become a fan of this film’s star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL). He was an unexpected action star of some of the memorable scenes in Inception. I also thought he was the best part of The Dark Knight Returns (at least the part I was able to watch before I had to leave halfway through it). All the positive buzz for Looper (it also had the honor of opening the Toronto International Film Festival) was encouraging,  but I was wary of my escalating expectations. No need for concern, I really enjoyed this film.

Set in the near future (2044); JGL is young Joe, a looper, a hit man who kills people from the far future. These are victims of a future organized crime syndicate . These victims have been sent back in time for expedited disposal. As part of Joe’s hitman contract he knows that his final assignment will be to dispose of his future self and thus close his loop. We learn via a moving montage that in one timeline Joe will retire from the looper racket and live the rest of his life. So when we learn that in the current narrative’s timeline, young Joe fails to close his loop (aka letting his loop run) he races to find his future self, Joe the elder (Bruce Willis) and finish the job. To complicate matters, his search must be covert because his ruthless boss (Jeff Daniels) is hunting both incarnations of Joe. The younger must be punished and the elder must be eliminated. Clear as mud? Watching the trailer below may help.

As the film unfolds , we learn why Joe the elder is determined to let his loop run. His heart-felt explanation fails to persuade his younger self in a dynamic scene when they meet in a favorite diner. This launches a thrilling, suspenseful tale that unfolds in an extremely emotionally satisfying fashion. To say anything more of the plot would venture too close to spoiler territory.

The concept of time travel has fascinated story tellers from H.G.  Wells and beyond. This problematic device has been handled masterfully (some may cry cop-out, I say, cough, cough, Terminator anyone?) by writer and director Rian Johnson. Johnson refuses to bog us down with technical mumbo jumbo and paradoxes, in fact he thumbs his nose at it. Time travel is a given in this world, one must just accept it in order to enjoy what happens next, much the way James Cameron used it in the Terminator series. In this film, time travel is a device that is used to explore the concepts of fate, love, and the importance of the relationships that shape one’s future. If you want a film that cracks the paradox of time travel, this is not the film for you.

If you want a serious thriller that is sprinkled with comedic jolts and has brief but high-body-count shoot-em-up sequences featuring the awesomeness that is Bruce Willis, then this is your film. The actors give tremendous performances. Emily Blunt plays a woman who is caught in the crossfire of the plot and she is simply delightful. Bruce Willis is perfectly cast as a tough guy with a heart. JGL is made up to have a closer physical resemblance to Bruce Willis and he channels the iconic actor’s mannerisms convincingly (though not as good as Josh Brolin in MIB 3, should there be a special Academy Award for that type of role?). JGL’s make up, while distracting at first, soon becomes a non-issue. I bought the premise with ease, especially after the diner conversation that Joe the elder has with his younger self. This scene is simply brilliant; kudos belong equally to both leading men who pull it off.

The characters in this film face ethical dilemmas and watching them wrestle with their passions,  convictions and guilt is a riveting experience. The characters are all deeply flawed yet the story is told so skillfully, that these people who do  horrible things, manage to worm their way into my heart. I really care about their future and thus the ending really packs a wallop.

I can’t wait to see this again on DVD, but not with the kids. Some of the violence is too realistic and graphic that I will have to wait for that shared experience.

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