September 29, 2012

MOVIES: Looper (Rian Johnson, 2012)

Looper opens in 2044, and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explains the premise very quickly: "Time travel hasn't been invented yet, but in the future, it will have been." And it will almost immediately be made illegal. And as we know from the good folks at the National Time Travel Association, when time travel is outlawed, only outlaws will have time travel.

And the outlaws of 2074 use that time travel to take care of pesky people who need killing. They send them back to 2044, handcuffed and hooded, where someone like Joe - an assassin known as a Looper -- is waiting to instantly shoot them and dispose of the body. No body for the cops to find in 2074, and even if the body's found in 2044, it won't match anyone.

The problems start when one of Joe's victims arrives unhooded, and turns out to be the older version of himself (Old Joe, as the credits identify him, is played by Bruce Willis). Joe's surprise lasts just long enough for Old Joe to get away, and this is Not a Good Thing.

So Joe's hunting for Old Joe; Old Joe, for reasons of his own, is hunting for someone who will in 30 years be a major crimelord; and Joe's boss Abe (a terrific performance from Jeff Daniels) is hunting for both of them.

Gordon-Levitt and Willis are both very good here, and the prosthetics that have been used to make Gordon-Levitt a plausible younger Willis are excellent. There are also fine performances from Emily Blunt as a farmer who winds up sheltering Joe, and Pierce Gagnon as her preternaturally wise, slightly creepy 5-year-old son.

The plot logic is as good here as I've ever seen in a time travel movie, with only one small nagging plot inconsistency that I wanted an explanation for. Writer-director Rian Johnson tells the story very clearly, and I think that even those who sometimes have problems with time travel stories will be able to follow this one easily.

One caveat: Those who are particularly bothered by violence involving children will find some scenes difficult going.

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