Movie Review: Looper
Published: Monday, October 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 1, 2012 22:10
From his affable but helpless role as Tom Hansen in the movie “500 Days of Summer” to his tear-jerking, heartstring-pulling performance as cancer patient Adam Lerner in “50/50,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt has impeccably won over audiences with his dimple-filled smile and overtly approachable personality. For as long as Hollywood has known him, Gordon-Levitt has been known as “the nice guy.”
In time travel thriller “Looper,” however, Gordon-Levitt plays everything but “the nice guy.”
Trading in his vinyl records by The Smiths for a futuristic, all-powerful shotgun, Gordon-Levitt stars in “Looper” as Joe, a hired assassin from the future. Directed and written by Rian Johnson, the film is set in Kansas City in 2044 with an appearance hauntingly similar to our own, though this despotic society could not be more different. Criminals seemingly run the city while the streets run rampant with senseless violence, prostitution and hunger. Joe informs the audience that time travel will be invented 30 years in the even more grim future only to be instantaneously outlawed and used exclusively by the mob of the 2070s.
This is where Gordon-Levitt’s role as an assassin comes into play. Hired by crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), Joe is a “looper”—a hit man hired to kill people who the mob sends back in time. Victims appear bound by rope with their heads concealed in a vacant cornfield each day at 11:30 a.m. on the dot, only to be immediately shot by Joe.
Sounds like a simple enough profession—killing helpless victims during a time when they technically do not exist. Like all jobs set up by the mob, however, there is a catch. The mob does not like to have loose ends, so every looper must sign a contract in which they agree to eventually kill the future version of themselves. This is what the mob euphemistically calls “closing the loop.”
Laconic and emotionally despondent Joe lives in this fast-paced and edgy world of self-imposed blindness until one day, the mob boss of the future decides to “close the loop” of every looper, including Joe’s. This ruthless mob boss, known as the Rainmaker sends back the future version of Joe (Bruce Willis), who, in attempts to preserve a promising future with the love of his life, makes a run for it before present Joe can close the loop.
So begins the endless and intricate cat-and-mouse chase between present Joe and future Joe. The action-filled chase leads audiences through scenes of gruesome violence to scenes with tender, emotionally-striking moments, primarily in thanks to top-notch performances by Emily Blunt as Sara, a single parent and self-sufficient farmer, as well as Pierce Gangon, who plays her overly-intelligent child Cid.
The movie brilliantly approaches the topic of time travel, immediately acknowledging its complexity. It avoids blunders and plot holes other time travel films such as “The Butterfly Effect” have made, and carefully distances itself from going into the convoluted logistics of disrupting the space-time continuum. It instead focuses more so on issues of morality, fate and character growth, while being rife with enough action to keep the audience’s attention.
With his face donned in prosthetics to match the appearance of Willis, Gordon-Levitt masters Willis’ mannerisms, creating an even more believable resemblance between the two actors. We see how time and experience has changed the character of Joe, which displays Johnson’s careful attention to character development. With Johnson’s quick and edgy shots in a grim and dark setting, the film’s cinematography impeccably complements its somber storyline, a storyline with an outcome that leaves viewers constructing their own concept of time travel.
With consistent performances all-around, the movie is well-acted and intricately crafted. It is refreshingly original, and sets itself apart from the precedent established by other films in the time travel genre. Above all, Gordon-Levitt’s performance stands out the most, signifying a possible shift in his acting career to more diversified roles. As much as audiences adore his nice side, this change offers much to love.