The movie “Looper” looks at what happens when the older and younger versions of the same person end up in the same time? Of course, anyone who has seen an episode of “Star Trek” can tell you it is bad for the space–time continuum mojo.
In the twisty-turny world of “Looper” time travel doesn’t exist. At least not yet. Set just a few years from now, the film is the story of “loopers,” people who execute criminals from the future. What?! Told you it was mind-bendy.
Thirty years in the future time travel is illegal. The only people who use it are criminal organizations when they need to get rid of someone. Chip implanting has made getting rid of bodies difficult, so they send undesirables back to the past to be disposed of. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an experienced looper—or present day trigger-man—slowly stashing his pay so one day he can retire and live in France. He doesn’t count on a crime lord from the future, the Rainmaker, ordering his loop be closed. That is sending his future self, Old Joe (Bruce Willis), to present day to be executed. When Joe hesitates Old Joe gets away and sets in motion a chase to determine the fate of not just one, but both Joes.
It’s two, two Joes in one. As the younger Joe Gordon-Levitt has a fake nose and an uncanny knack for the cadences of Willis’s voice. Willis is Willis, but a world-weary one, who wears each and every of the thirty-year age gap on his face and in his bearing. Both hand in solid performances, as does Emily Blunt as a protective mother whose son (Pierce Gagnon) is on Old Joe’s hit list. Ditto Jeff Daniels who takes a break from “The Newsroom” to play the looper boss.
But the actor’s aren’t the star of the movie, the ideas are. ”Looper” harkens back to sci fi that is about concepts rather than space ships. Is it airtight? No, but that time travel movie is? The crime bosses of the future could have saved a lot of trouble by doing the killing themselves and sending the bodies back to be disposed of, but where’s the fun in that? We need the two Joes in one place to get the story revved. It’s what happens after that is interesting.
Director and writer Rian Johnson uses the sci fi premise to allow the character of Joe in both forms to examine his life, past, present and future, and discover what’s really important to him. It’s humanist science fiction that values the person (or persons) over special effects.
It’s also a wildly entertaining chase movie, with enough sci fi to keep the left side of your brain engaged while the right brain will thrill to the chase.