In the year 2072, it’s almost impossible to get rid of a body. Fortunately, time travel has been invented. It’s outlawed, but that doesn’t stop the mob from using it to clean up their kills.
Instead of outfitting a victim in cement shoes, they chuck the poor mook into a time machine. Thirty years in the past, a Looper waits in a Kansas field with a blunderbuss and a tarp, ready to shoot, wrap and incinerate whoever shows up.
Being a Looper is good employment in a world nearly destroyed by poverty. Instead of scavenging on the streets and dying of disease, these trigger-men make money, use drugs and sleep with all the women they desire.
The only downside to being a Looper is its retirement package: One day, you’ll be told your loop is being closed. That means you’ll be expected to shoot your future self and dispose of your body. With the loop closed, you get the gold bars and freedom — until your 30 years are up.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Premium Rush) is a Looper at the top of his game, enjoying life and making plans for his limited future. But when Old Joe (Bruce Willis: The Expendables 2) shows up on that Kansas tarp, he doesn’t accept his retirement bullet with grace. He gets the jump on his younger self and sets off on a mission to get his life back.
Surprisingly unhappy about this escape, Young Joe thinks Old Joe is a selfish, pathetic old man. He tracks down his older self to put a bullet in him and live out the life Old Joe is so determined to keep.
Will Young Joe kill Old? Will the younger and older versions ever learn to work together? Is there another way to break the loop?
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom), Looper is a time travel movie that doesn’t get caught in its own logic. The time-travel paradox is explained, but the movie is more into exploring Old and Young Joe and their motivations. Johnson also is careful to base Looper’s future in reality. Changes to technology are slight enough that the film is a believable glimpse into our future.
Though the stakes are high, plot twists abound and deaths are bloody, Johnson lets the audience laugh. Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) provides a few such moments as the time-traveling enforcer who runs the Looper program.
The movie’s standout is Gordon-Levitt, who, through his own skill and some understated prosthetics, convincingly transforms himself into a younger version of Willis. He speaks in a convincing Willis whisper and has clearly studied Willis’ mannerisms, making it believable that the thin, finer-featured Gordon-Levitt will eventually mature into the broader, less refined-looking Willis.
Looper’s only real flaw is its premise. Why on earth would the mob put a man in charge of his own death? Wouldn’t it eliminate a lot of problems, indeed the whole film, to get another Looper to kill the guy they’re retiring? Is it really that surprising that even a gunman might hesitate to blow a hole in his future self?
In spite of this flaw, Looper is a wonderful bit of sci-fi action that boasts great performances and clever writing. For all who’ve wondered if they’d like the person they’ll grow up to be, Looper raises the stakes: Would you shoot the person you grow up to be?