Joseph Gordon-Levitt says Looper is the film he's most excited for lately. But how does his time-traveling gangster movie actually hold up? It's everything we wished for — and more.
Here are our completely spoiler-free first impressions on the smartest time-travel movie we've seen in years. And by spoiler-free, we mean that you won't learn anything here that you couldn't glean from the movie's trailers.
Here's the super brief synopsis. By the year 2074, time travel has been invented and subsequently outlawed. The only people who use time travel in the year 2074 are gangsters. Since ditching dead bodies is still a problem in the future, criminal masterminds send their victims back 30 years, to be blasted by the blunderbusses of the Loopers. It's a fairly simple job: The Looper shows up to a tarped off spot, and whammo a hooded, hand tied victim appears. The Looper shoots, collects the silver taped to the victims back and disposes of the body. A Looper's contract is up when the silver is replaced by gold, which means the Looper has just "closed their Loop," (which signifies they have just killed their future selves). The Looper is then free to live out the remaining 30 years of their life with their big pay day.
We pick up in the year 2044, following a Looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Unfortunately for Joe, it's time for him to close his loop, except that his future self (Bruce Willis) escapes. This is not good for Joe, as the current mob will now spend the rest of their days hunting down Old Joe and Young Joe, until that loop is closed. Young Joe has to kill his future self to get his life back, and clearly Old Joe isn't willing to let that happen. Of course there's much more to this story than two versions of a guy trying to outsmart each other, but we'll let you fall into that plot twist yourself.
This film is full of moral dilemmas, accompanied by glorious, engaging and thoughtful action. Even the long shootout sequences are peppered with director Rian Johnson's trademark charm. But don't expect a pair of brothers to come tumbling out of the trunk in bowler hats. When you cut up your past, the future is scarred forever.
Bruce on Bruce
Gordon-Levitt just kills it as the young Bruce Willis. He nails all the old Moonlighting Willis faces you love. There's the skeptical raised eyebrow, skeptical smile, skeptical tired sigh, and (our favorite) skeptical sexy face. The shit-eating squints never cease, and they are all wonderful. It's a sheer delight to watch a serious actor try and take on Willis, without doing a full-blown Saturday Night Live impression. JGL is channeling the "too old for this shit" Willis vibe, starting just 15 seconds into the flick. It's wonderful. And when you get these two face to face, it's magic. Sour-faced, tired old man magic.
Just Smart Enough
If you're looking for the next big heady flick — Shane Carruth's Primer, this is not. And that's a very good thing. As twisty as Johnson's timelines get, they are still fairly straight forward. This movie respects the audience enough not to spell out every detail. But it also doesn't fall into any plot holes. The science fiction is used to facilitate a deeper conflict between the two Joes. Not to shock and awe the audience (although it does that too).
Looper is deeply clever with a whole lot of heart. Yes, you will need to pay attention — but you're not going to need a flow chart to get through this movie. This allows the audience to focus on the actual task at hand, as opposed to trying to out-think the director.
There is a mob action taken on one of the Loopers that still haunts us late at night. The horror is real, and meticulously deliberate. Not a drop of blood felt wasted, even when there was buckets of it.
No one is trying to save the planet. Which is a good thing, since we've all seen that movie before. The actions and reactions in Looper are all deeply personal. This loop forms a tiny microcosm of time lines that house this flick. Both Joes struggle with the same issues, involving morality and time-travel mechanics. Just by placing two versions of the same characters against each other, they change the shape of their own future. At the same time, there's no bow tie of happiness in the end, no Sports Almanac to burn to right the wrongs of the past.
If you prefer a slightly less violent, low stakes sort of action flick then maybe this movie isn't for you. It's fairly violent, we guess. Perhaps our only real complaint is that the Gat men (who are supposedly the slickest hit men of the future mob) have the shooting accuracy of Stormtroopers. Buckets of bullets are fired at both Joes, and miss almost every time. Even Emily Blunt (who plays a character Young Joe shacks up with in the cornfields of Kansas while hiding from the mob) misses most of Joe when she fires a bunch of rock salt at him from about 2 feet away. The future human race has terrible aim.
Go see this movie, immediately. Buy all of the tickets when it comes out. Take your mother, brother, sister, father, uncle, next door neighbor, co-worker, dog-walker, everyone you know. This movie should be the litmus test for a good friendship. If your friend doesn't like Looper, they are a bad friend (and probably a bad person). This is how much we love this movie.