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LOOPER – Review
LOOPER is an entertaining science fiction thriller that neatly blurs the line between suicide and murder, it’s a narrowly conceived yarn about victims sent back in time to be bumped off by assassins called loopers. Rian Johnson, in his third feature, keeps the action going while trying to maintain interest in the long arc of a story about Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a man assigned to kill his 30-years-older self (Bruce Willis).
In 2074, a mere 62 years from now, time travel has become possible and with such a breakthrough it is limited to serving as a body-disposal system. Time jumping is of course strictly outlawed by the prevailing government due to its potential for screwing with history. Ran by an overlord called The Rainmaker, a large criminal syndicate of course uses it anyways but only as a vehicle for assassination with gunmen living in 2044 known as loopers who are laying in wait for people to execute so no bodies or other evidence can be found in the future. Hooded with hands bound behind them, the not so lucky victims suddenly materialize in an empty field, and the looper immediately blows him away with his blunderbuss. One such looper is Joe (Gordon-Levitt), who hopes he can get out of this racket, he says he’d like to go to France, which earns him scorn from his boss Abe (Jeff Daniels); “I’m from the future, you should go to China,” he scolds.
LOOPER is mostly set in a seedy metropolis that doesn’t look all that different from sketchy neighborhoods in some big cities today; there are derelicts, bombed-out buildings, ruined cars and enough other signs of urban ills to suggest that, in Johnson’s view, things will just gradually decline over the next three decades.
Joe tries to help a friend and fellow looper, Seth (Paul Dano), who’s endangered by a new development that’s come down from up high: They’re “closing all the loops,” meaning they’re sending the “future selves” of all the loopers back to be killed. Almost immediately, Joe is in the same jam when he goes to the field to do his next job, the guy who pops up to be shot is not hooded. Joe’s hesitation allows the older man to escape, and it’s clear who he is: It’s Joe as his older self. And for his failure to kill him, young Joe is in a pile of trouble with Abe and his “gats,” first-class hired guns. When the two Joe’s finally sit down across from each other in a diner in the middle of nowhere there’s no doubt they have different intentions: Young Joe is determined to kill his older self, while older Joe is dead set on saving his late wife’s life by tracking down and taking out The Rainmaker, who would be a little kid in 2044.
The biggest problem facing the makers of LOOPER is how to make the audience believe that the trim, long-faced Gordon-Levitt could somehow change so much in 30 years that he would look like the thicker-built and shorter-nosed Willis. The solution lay in altering the younger actor’s appearance, imperceptibly at first, but gradually to morph his dark eyes into Willis’ gray-green and to reshape his nose and eyebrows, either with makeup or digitally or perhaps both. At first, the effect is a bit odd, and you can’t quite put your finger on what’s off; then it feels downright weird to be looking at Gordon-Levitt which is definitely noticeable during the film’s second half which takes place at the isolated home of feisty young farmer and single mom Sara (Emily Blunt), who we’re used to seeing Blunt as a funny or somewhat prissy English rose-type and she’s clearly having fun playing someone far more damaged and salt of the earth, has an unusually gifted son, Cid (Pierce Gagnon). The film’s pace is slowed here to develop some intimacy between these two isolated people and give some screen time to the kid, who pretty obviously will provide the reason for old Joe to eventually head for the farm.
The eventual ending is great, it’s completely predictable but the resolution to the tricky time maneuvering is not really worked out but as with all time-travel related movies there’s a moment when a character asks about the impossibilities in what’s happening and another character tells him to just shut up and forget about it. There really is no sense in the time-travel in LOOPER, but no less sense than in any other film in this genre. Johnson makes up for it with narrative force, mesmeric fascination and a sense of a profound taboo being broken.
3.5 of Stars 5