Loop de loop
Every once in a while a movie comes along that forces you to sit for a while and just think. The most recent example that comes to mind is 2010’s Inception – who hasn’t lost sleep contemplating that wake-up slap ending? These movies stray away from the basic genericness the bulk of modern action movies feed off of and force the audience to be engaged in the main attraction: the story, and the intelligent way it unfolds. Looper, Rian Johnson’s sci-fi/action/thriller/mind blowing masterpiece, just shot a missile through all preceding movies of this specialized genre of action and intelligence. It’s the best one I’ve ever seen.
The movie’s premise is a complex one, and one that would probably be more fun to discover in the theater, so I’ll keep it basic. Time travel is invented and quickly ruled illegal in 2074 because of its potentially destructive nature. However, criminal organizations still use it to dispatch ‘loopers’, paid executioners, thirty years into the past to dispose of any potential threats in a time where they technically do not exist yet, thus making this dirty laundry business “clean.” Loopers are eventually forced to “close their loop,” meaning they must annihilate their aged selves sent back from 2074 to keep information about time travel as secretive as possible. Once they close their loop, loopers are given thirty years and a huge sum of money to enjoy their lives, until, inevitably, kabloom.
Continuing his streak of hard-hitting action movies, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a selfish devil-may-care looper who faces an identity crisis when his future self, played by Bruce Willis, escapes (rather easily) from his planned execution. Young and old Joe have conflicting plans for their lives, which is weird because they are the same life, but regardless it leads to some seriously kick-butt action, so we don’t question it. Wishing to protect his wife slash personal angel, old Joe searches 2044 for the man who will one day ruin his life (called the Rainmaker) to kill him as a child so he never has a chance to grow up. Young Joe has too much self pride to take orders from anyone else, not even himself, and his rebellion leads him to the house of independent Sarah (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).
Willis’ fairly late appearance seems odd, but all is quickly forgiven when he’s unleashed on a tiny army of uniformed but apparently clueless time control mafia cronies with nothing but a of couple guns and his fists. Even with the script poking fun at his age (he’s in his upper fifties!), no one does close combat scenes quite like him. In an even later appearance, Blunt, in by far my favorite performance of her career, appeals directly to the heart of the movie with her fantastically nuanced portrayal of a character who may not time travel, but proves to be just as intriguing.
The movie takes a brief rest from the action at Sarah’s house to allow Blunt, Gordon-Levitt, and even the surprisingly good newcomer Gagnon to show their full repertoire as actors. Gordon-Levitt is the best of both worlds: a wonderful character actor and a complete action star. Pair him with the right script and watch him go. This role was perfect for him. By the time 2044 actually rolls around, his name will have been one of the biggest in Hollywood. We don’t need time travel to see that.
But perhaps the strongest point of the film is its prepackaged marketing design. The film is riddled with subtle hints and winks that are near impossible to catch completely in one viewing. Seemingly insignificant bits of information introduced early on turn out to be the pivotal keystone to the ridiculous theory you’re trying to convince your friends is the truth. Which is why the design is the best part: it makes you think about it, talk about it with friends, convince them to go see it so they can formulate their own theories. The movie will trap you in a loop: once you see it you’ll want to see it again. And again. And again. And again.