Rian Johnson executes an epic with Looper

Jonathan Rainey, Staff Writer

With the outstanding cast of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, as well as a fresh and inventive story from director and writer Rian Johnson, “Looper” delivers everything.

The film’s title comes from a career in killing people transported to the year 2042 via time machines which will not be invented for another 30 years. Loopers, who work for the mob, only have to be somewhere at a specific time and wait for their target to appear before promptly killing them and disposing of the body, thus eliminating that person from the future. The end of every looper’s career comes when they “close their loop” by killing the older version of themselves. They are paid handsomely and, since their death is assured in 30 years, live with a carpe diem lifestyle.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt), one such looper, is content with his life, saving some of his money and spending the rest on drugs and women, until he is face to face with himself and closing his own loop. Joe hesitates and Old Joe (Willis) promptly escapes his younger self and sets off to find a mysterious and powerful figure from the future, known only as The Rainmaker, to stop him from his rise to power.

Young Joe must find and kill his older self before his mob bosses kill him for not completing his task – and his loop.

Director and writer Rian Johnson delivers a brilliantly complex storyline replete with dynamic characters, a well-executed script and great cinematography. Considering Johnson’s relatively short career in feature-length filmmaking, Looper comes out of almost nowhere to be one of the best films of the year thus far. The story is complex to say the least – though anything with time travel must be. But Looper’s story works primarily because the script dwells so little on the technology of time travel itself and so much on the conflict between young and old Joe which the technology makes possible.

The atmosphere and setting in Looper really do help to set this one apart from many other science fiction films. America in the 2040s appears to have lost its status on the world stage, and the dingy streets are filled with vagrants trying to make it by. Automobiles have energy conversion devices which allow them to run on solar energy and only the elite have access to anything looking futuristic. To this end and to its credit, Looper goes lighter on the special effects than most sci-fi films which adds a lot to the story. The technology and time-travel effects are low-key and work as props rather than distractions.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, the stars who play Joe both young and old, make a convincing pair of being different versions of the same person.  Gordon-Levitt’s dynamic acting fits him perfectly into the role of headstrong young Joe who is forced to face the consequence of choices. And it is always good to see Willis use the other side of his talent in acting for a more serious film instead of what he is most often known for such as Die Hard and The Expendables. Don’t worry though, Bruce Willis does get the chance to dual-wield P-90 submachine guns for those who wanted it.

In summary, if you like science fiction, go see “Looper.” If you like good storytelling, go see “Looper.” If you like Joseph Gordon Levitt or Bruce Willis, go see “Looper.” If you don’t have a particular affinity for any of those things but just like good films, you should see “Looper” anyway.