Time and Time Again 

The twisty Looper is a fresh, fun, fully realized take on the time-travel genre.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

About midway through the new time-travel thriller Looper, the hitman Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) first speaks to a 30-year-older version of himself, credited as "Old Joe" (Bruce Willis). And as the two versions of the same man sit together and try to make sense of what's happening, Old Joe speaks for us all: "I don't want to talk about time-travel shit. If we get started talking about that, we're going to be here all day, doing diagrams with straws."

This little meta moment is indicative of a film that gets the time-travel theme just right: playing the story just below the surface, deep enough to heighten the viewer's perceptions and get his or her mind working, but not so deep that the entire scenario wobbles, as these kinds of films inevitably do under close inspection.

I wouldn't necessarily say that Looper, the third film from writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom), is the best movie of the year so far. But it's probably the most perfect movie of the year — the one that most fully accomplishes what it's trying to do. There are no reservations here. No wrong turns or underperforming scenes. Looper hooks you in from its opening images and holds you through the last of its 118 minutes.

Gordon-Levitt, whose face has been altered by make-up to more closely resemble Willis, is a "looper" — an underworld assassin in the year 2044. In the film's present, time travel has not been invented yet. But it's coming soon, and a criminal syndicate in the post-time-travel future has sent an associate, Abe (Jeff Daniels), on a one-way ticket back to 2044 to run an assassin program. In this future, tracking devices have made it difficult to dispose of bodies, so when criminals need to get rid of someone, they kidnap and then transport their targets back in time, where they're immediately shot by the loopers. The "loop is closed," eventually, when the loopers are made to kill their future selves, a job for which they are handsomely rewarded and retired, freed to live out their remaining days until that future killing is repeated.

Joe — young Joe, that is — is willing to close his loop, but Old Joe has a different plan in mind, which puts the two iterations into a conflict that quickly expands to include other elements of the future world, which somehow involve Emily Blunt as a gun-toting single mom at a Kansas farmhouse. (How she introduces herself: "I have shot and buried three vagrants this week.")

I won't reveal any more of the story, because much of the pleasure in Looper is in experiencing how these plot mechanics play out without pulling the film too deeply into the morass of time-travel paradox.

I do wonder how well Looper will play on repeated viewings, once its secrets have been revealed. But I suspect it will hold up well. The film's conception of America, circa 2044, is provocative without being too fussy or calling too much attention to itself. Loopers are paid in silver and gold — which arrives strapped to their targets and which they trade in for Chinese currency. Recreational drugs are administered via eye-droppers. The gap between rich and poor has grown, with the former armed, the latter legion, and law enforcement nowhere to be seen.

There's a crucial middle passage of alternate futures — in which Gordon-Levitt morphs into Willis — that's stylish and affecting and takes some teasing over but which locks into place. Richard and Linda Thompson's gorgeous, yearning folk-rock anthem "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" — which would be 70 years old by 2044 — is deployed in the best and most surprising use of pop music in any recent movie I can remember.

These are marks of a movie that completely nails its high-concept premise but isn't satisfied with just that. Probably the best time you can have at the movies right now.

Opening Friday, September 28th
Multiple locations

Rated R · 118 min. · 2012
Official Site: www.loopermovie.com
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Producer: Ram Bergman and James D. Stern
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Tracie Thoms, Noah Segan and David Jensen

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Looper


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Unreal Film Festival 2017

      Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy Festival Invades Studio On The Square.
    • Outflix Film Festival 2017

      The Homegrown Festival Marks Twenty years of Bringing LBGTQ Films To The Mid-South
    • It

      The atmospheric Stephen King adaptation of your nightmares.


Film/TV/Etc. Blog


News Blog

Supreme Court Steps In on Fayette Church Matter

Intermission Impossible

Muhammad Ali Meets Stepin Fetchit at The Hattiloo Theatre

News Blog

Task Force Considers Medical Cannabis

News Blog

Trolleys Return to the Tracks for Testing

Music Blog

Jessi Zazu: In Memoriam

Beyond the Arc

Deflections: The Roster, TV Angst, and The Buy/Sell Clause

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

The Vietnam War

We Saw You

Cooper-Young Fest, Big Bugs, Art of Caring

Music Blog

Linda Heck: Bound to ExCITM tonight


More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation