starring Josesph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, & Bruce Willis
written & directed by Rian Johnson
TriStar Pictures (2012)
Time travel can be a pain in the ass if you think about it too much. Some folks can't even follow The Terminator, which isn't exactly what I'd call a complicated movie. So, it kind of makes sense that when Joel (Gordon-Levitt) sits down with his older self (Willis) in a diner and starts talking about the ins-and-outs of time travel, his older self tells him to shut up. Why spoil a good movie with a bunch of gobbledy gook about temporal shifts and paradoxes? Time travel is a thing. Just go with it.
It's the mid-21st century and Joel is a looper, a hitman who kills people sent back in time by crime bosses in the future. Some fella giving you a headache? No problem. Just shackle him, throw a bag over his head, strap some silver to his back, and zap him back in time thirty years where Joel is armed and waiting in the middle of a cornfield. It's nice work if you can get it, but there's a catch: every looper eventually kills their older self. They never see who they're killing until the deed is done--bag over the head, remember?--so the only giveaway at first glance is that the bars strapped to the target are gold instead of silver. Kind of like getting your gold watch for retirement. Enjoy it, kiddo, because you've got thirty years to live it up before those crime bosses round you up and zap you back in time so your younger self can finish you off. That's why these hitmen are called loopers, by the way: when they kill their older selves, they've basically closed the loop on their lives.
With me so far? Good. Because this whole operation has a big wrench thrown in its gears when Joel comes face to face with his older self, who is unshackled, unmasked, and ready to fight for his life. There's a new crime boss in the future called the Rainmaker closing everyone's loops and Old Joel wants revenge. But as Young Joel chases him down, while at the same time trying to keep from getting killed by his fellow loopers who think he's gone soft, he finds out there's more to Old Joel's plan than he's letting on and his pursuit leads him to a farmhouse and a young mother who may or may not be raising Old Joel's nemesis.
I imagine the house of cards that is the time-travel aspect of this movie could fall apart if I really sat down to mull it over, but there's no point, because the performances and action are all so captivating that I was sucked in from the get-go. I think it's kind of funny that Joseph Gordon-Levitt basically adopted Bruce Willis's mannerisms in his performance, since it was pretty unlikely Willis was going to be the one to push the envelop. The world is near-future, but not Bladerunner-ish with any heavily stylized backdrops or costumes. There is some telekinesis (one in ten are in this world), a hover-bike or two (I want one), but other than that it's a pretty ordinary world, which helps ground the story.
Things get a little crazy towards the end, but the pacing is done really well, gradually ramping it up from a noir-ish mystery to an all-out run and gun action film. I loved it, and I'm apparently not alone, since the movie has a very strong rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It's crime fiction mixed with sci-fi here and there, and that's a magical combination for a guy like me, and I'm really glad to see it handled so well. And if your tastes are like mine, I doubt you'll be disappointed by this movie either.