Impeccable 'Looper' a welcome return to smart science fiction
Time travel is tricky business but Rian Johnson’s “Looper” is a mind-bendingly wild, character-driven modern sci-fi classic.
From H.G. Welles’ genre staple “The Time Machine” to Terry Gilliam’s twisted “Time Bandits,” the notion of time travel has always been romantic, a way to revisit the nostalgia of the past or to glimpse things to come. “Looper” scrapes off time travel’s luster and delivers a rusted, violent and visionary future.
Writer-director Rian Johnson’s (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom”) impeccable third feature discards the blustering and frenetic CGI chaos prevalent in just about every new sci-fi movie and delivers a grounded, organic and thought-provoking action film. He puts the characters in the driver’s seat, not the story, nor the effects. “Looper” is a Hitchcockian morality play pumped with adrenaline, creating the ultimate funhouse.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe, a janitor of sorts in 2042 Kansas. He is known as a Looper, a killer in the present who waits for his target to be transported back from 2072. Apparently it’s nearly impossible to hide a dead body in the deep future, so if you want someone killed, send them back in time. Once the target is removed, the body is incinerated and payment is received.
Addicted to drugs, Joe leads the high life in a burnt out city. He arrogantly stands above the rest of a destitute society with his flashy sports car and secret stash of silver bricks. When Joe’s employer Abe (Jeff Daniels) assigns him to close his loop, meaning he needs to kill his future self when he is transported back in time, Joe hesitates and Old Joe (Bruce Willis) flees.
Johnson gives us more than just a chase film. He does a remarkable job at playing with morality. You see, Old Joe isn’t just a fugitive. He’s actually searching for a young boy who will eventually grow up to become an evil warlord known as the Rainmaker. By finding and killing the young boy, Old Joe thinks he can save the future.
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