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Looper (A Movie Review)




You can just barely recognize Joseph Gordon-Levitt in this futuristic thriller, in which he plays a new sort of time-travel hit man.  In the future, time travel has been discovered and outlawed.  However, criminals still use it as a fail-safe way of killing: they send a man bound and hooded back in time and he is immediately shot to death by killers in the past awaiting the quarry.  That way, there is no body in the future, and no information on the corpse in the past if they were ever found, though the killers are quick to dispose of the bodies.

Gordon-Levitt is Joe, one of the best of his unsavory profession.  He is cold, ruthless and efficient.  He keeps to himself mostly, with only one close friend (another less-skilled killer played by Paul Dano) and an on-again/off-again affair with a pretty-but-desperate hooker/stripper (Piper Perabo).   Life seems pretty good.  That is until the day that he is sent back a man in his sixties (played by Bruce Willis) and realizes he is about to shoot himself, aged forty more years.  He hesitates and his future self escapes.  Now, he has a professional and moral conundrum on his hand.  Kill himself of the future, or be killed by his bosses in the past and lose the future that he has obviously lived.

As noted before, Gordon-Levitt’s makeup job is impressive here.  He looks almost nothing like himself.  Of course, he doesn’t look all that much like Bruce Willis, either, which I believe was the intention, except in the most broad strokes.  But, still, an incredible job of making the actor disappear.  Beyond his looks, even his movements and stances are just different.  The makeup literally allows Gordon-Levitt to disappear into the role – though on occasions it also gives the character a bit of a robotic CGI feel.

But somehow that works for his character, who has denied any basic humanity in himself for so long that his soul is numb, if not already dead.

Looper becomes a battle of wits between a man and himself, removed by decades of experience. 

Joe tracks his future self to a small farm outside of this generic steampunk future city.  Living at the house are a young mother named Sara (Emily Blunt) and her bratty, apparently supernaturally gifted young son.  Through his relationship with Sara, he finally is able to connect with another human being.

While he hunts himself, he comes to realize that there may be some sort of huge shift going on in the future due to an all-powerful gangster who is cleaning up all of the loopers from the past.  However, Joe has to finish his job, even if it means killing the man that he will be.

Gordon-Levitt and Willis have some tense and extremely well-imagined run-ins here and both actors are up to the job.  Willis in particular is a revelation here, much better than he has been in years (perhaps decades) even though in certain ways, old Joe is a similar Willis type.

Not all of the time travel minutiae in the story works, but even with some definite flaws, Looper is a fine piece of sci-fi noir.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: October 6, 2012.

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