In 2005 writer-director Rian Johnson made a memorable film called “Brick” which combined the private eye-crime noir genre with a high-school setting and made us start to wonder if Joseph Gordon Levitt was going to have a career past being the alien teenager on “3rd Rock from the Sun.” Now no one is wondering anymore as Levitt teams up again with the director for “Looper,” the year’s most ingenious and thought-provoking sci-fi movie.
It takes place in the year 2044, at a time when time travel will not exist for another thirty years but when it does, the mob will control it and send all of their dirty laundry back in time to be easily disposed of by assassins known as loopers. Joe (Levitt) is just such a killer-for-hire who’s also strung out on drugs and prostitutes. When his future self (Bruce Willis) turns out to be the next target he hesitates just enough to be overpowered. Now Joe’s mentor and boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels), must dispatch men to kill both.
There’s more to it: future Joe has come back on a mission that involves his wife and a future mob kingpin. Regular Joe must protect a lonely farm widow (Emily Blunt) and her young son (Pierce Gagnon). And there’s a subplot about 10% of the world having telekinesis. Johnson has stitched this all together with nary a plot hole or convolution to be found. And there are also some nifty ideas regarding the morality of changing a future tragic event by inflicting an equally tragic past event, and whether love can really change the trajectory of a person’s life in a positive direction.
What’s great about “Looper” is it doesn’t peddle a bright and gimmicky future but is more preoccupied about the characters. “Looper” inspires more thought than thrills, even though there are gun fights, slow motion, and impressive FX just the same. There are four really good performances here, those by Willis, Blunt, and Levitt. Watching Willis and Levitt especially is riveting–they go well together–,Levitt’s youthful simplicity against Willis’s hardened bravado. Gagnon is also very good as a rager of a little kid.
“Looper” is endless loads of intelligence, thrills, and great acting, which makes Johnson a fascinating and original filmmaker who I can’t wait to see more from.