Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Looper - 4 stars

Finally, a great science fiction / action movie about time travel.  Written and directed by Rian Johnson (who gave us Brick and The Brothers Bloom), Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe.  Joe is a looper.  Set in the year 2044, loopers are hit men.  In 2074, bodies are particularly difficult to dispose of, so the mob sends their victims back in time to 2044, where a looper is waiting to shoot them.

The trailer shows that Joe will encounter his older self, who is sent back to be killed.  His older self is played by Bruce Willis.  What the trailers don't show you is that all loopers know this is an eventuality.  When the mob wants to end a looper's contract, they send them back in time to be killed by their younger self.  So while it's a bit of a surprise to Joe when it happens, it isn't completely unexpected.

One good thing about the movie is that this is only the setup.  Will younger Joe succeed in killing his older self?  Obviously old Joe can't kill young Joe.  Will young Joe let old Joe live?  Will the mob catch up to them first?  See, if a looper lets his older self get away, the mob kills both of them.  When old Joe first arrives, he is able to escape before young Joe can kill him, so the mob thinks he let his target get away.  Then the movie introduces some story elements that I had no idea were coming.

Jeff Daniels has a lot of fun as the mob boss.  I always enjoy his performances, and it reminded me of The Lookout, another good movie that teamed Daniels up with Gordon-Levitt. 

One thing I really liked is how the movie dealt with old Joe's memory.  As his history was changed by running into his younger self, his memory started to change.  He had a wife in the future, and he started to forget her because it became more likely that his younger self wound not end up meeting her.  This is something I always think about in time travel movies.  In Back to the Future, as Marty interacted with the Doc Brown of the '50s, would the older Doc Brown's memory instantly change so he would remember meeting Marty in 1955?

This is a great movie.  I only have a couple of reservations.  One is the way they made Gordon-Levitt look more like Willis using makeup or CGI.  It was a little distracting, especially his lips.  I never complain that an actor doesn't look enough like another actor when they are playing different ages of the same character.  They should have just left it alone. 

It's hard to talk about my other issue with the movie without getting into spoiler territory.  I think I can safely say that there is a leader in the future that old Joe is really upset with.  He says this guy is closing all the loops.  Well, I thought the movie established that all loopers were eventually killed, so why was old Joe so surprised by it?  I understand why old Joe didn't want to be killed, but he acts like closing the loops is a new thing.  Every looper knows it's a possibility so he should have known it was coming.

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