Watching Looper you can almost hear Dorothy’s voice in your head, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” But you are. The year is 2044 and it’s brutal. The streets are littered with beggars and vagrants, people cut each other down with shotguns at the slightest provocation and everyone who can afford it seems to be high on drugs that come in the form of eye drops.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars Joe, reuniting him with writer/director Rian Johnson for the first time since 2005’s critically acclaimed indie movie Brick. Joe is a ‘Looper’, a contract killer who kills people sent back in time from thirty years in the future by the mob. The victims appear, bound and hooded and Joe blasts them away before disposing of the body. It’s a job that pays well but comes with one big proviso – one day one of the people sent back for him to kill may be his older self.
Needless to say Joe’s future self shows up for him to kill and he doesn’t handle it well, leaving young Joe to chase down old Joe (played by Bruce Willis) before the mob catches up with both of them.
But wait! There’s more to it, Willis has an agenda in the past – to save the woman he loves in the future he must kill the person who ordered her murder while he is still a child. He has three possible names; the only way to be sure is to get them all.
Still with me? It may seem a little confusing and it takes a while to adjust but it is well worth the effort. Looper is a rollercoaster ride, smart and violent, mind-bending and surprisingly touching. As one reviewer put it, imagine a hybrid of a Quentin Tarentino film combined with a Philip K. Dick story – pulp sci-fi.
Gordon-Levitt is heavily made-up to look like a younger, Moonlighting era, Bruce Willis and at times his imitation of Willis facial expressions is dead on; however the rest of the time the make-up just makes him look strange. Nevertheless his performance as the troubled young Joe is nuanced and handled well. Bruce Willis pulls out a surprisingly tender performance as Old Joe, tortured and determined to save his wife by any means necessary – and he can still kick some ass too. The two stars have great chemistry and it’s especially noticeable in a fantastic scene set in a diner.
The film wisely doesn’t get bogged down explaining all the science and paradoxes, using only the elements it needs and ignoring the rest. Rian Johnson’s script keeps you on the edge of your seat up until the last with tremendous action, surprising wit and a twist you won’t see coming.