Four saw blades for this innovative, imaginative, important and ultimately wise film. Producer and star Joseph Gordon-Levitt is reunited with writer/director Rian Johnson. They worked together in another Rian Johnson writer/director project, the clever and very well done indie flick “Brick” in 2006. Gordon-Levitt was young enough then to play a high school student in a film noir crime movie set in a modern-day California high school. It was brilliant, as is “Looper.”
Writer Johnson has the narrator say something about “a woman who would die for her child and a man who would kill for his wife.” This is a movie about the very largest issues of life, of ethics and morality, love and death. But, thanks to the genius of Rian Johnson, it is wrapped up in a fast-paced science fiction film with a complicated, plausible plot. How fun is that?
Gordon-Levitt is a hard case hit man. In 2042 his job is to dispatch victims sent from 30 years in the future. The mob in 2072 gets rid of bodies by sending them back in time, still alive. The looper is a hit man who greets the transported with a blast from a blunderbuss. It is all very neat from the point of view of the future crime lords. No body, no crime. The looper knows that at some point he will be asked to “close the loop.” That is, he will be forced to murder his future self. But he gets 30 years of high times and for the street-raised youngsters it seems to be a splendid arrangement.
Bruce Willis plays the future hit man who returns to be slaughtered by his own younger self, only to escape. We are constantly dealing with time travel paradoxes and that keeps us thinking while the mayhem continues to unroll. Paul Dano (outstandingly creepy in “There Will Be Blood”) plays an unlucky looper.
The delightfully named Piper Perabo is featured as an unlucky but very good-looking hooker. I regularly watch her TV show but did not recognize her, so well into her character had she devolved. In the dystopian future, most of the women we meet are prostitutes, the men either killers or victims. Jeff Daniels is a crime boss sent from the future to oversee the looper operation, a role which he plays with understated menace and sudden ferocity.
Finally, I would mention the very talented Garret Dillahunt (“Raising Hope” on TV) who makes memorable a small role as one of Jeff Daniels’ gunmen.
As a science fiction film, this is much better than the recent remake of “Total Recall,” and on a budget of only $30 million. It has taken in a worldwide gross of $133 million which should make producer Gordon-Levitt a ton of cash. This is the hard-working actor’s third major film this year after well-received roles in “The Dark Knight Rises” and the quite recent “Premium Rush.”
This film is rated R for violence, murder and naked people. It runs 1 hour and 58 minutes. This is the beginning of the season of great movies. “Looper” is one of them.