Writer / Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and Pierce Gagnon
The year is 2044, and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper. A Looper is a hit-man in the present working for the mob from 2074, after time travel has been invented and outlawed. Joe’s job is simple. He’s given a time to be at a certain spot. When that time arrives his hooded target appears before him, Joe blows him away with a blunderbuss, collects his bars of silver, and disposes of the body in a furnace. Eventually Joe will kill his future self, collect a large payment of gold, retire, move away, waste all his cash, find the woman of his dreams, get detoxed off the drug of the day, and live happily ever after. At least until that day he gets grabbed, hooded, and sent to the past to meet his younger self. That’s the deal Joe makes to become a Looper.
But what if something goes wrong? What if Old Joe (Bruce Willis) wants to change the deal? What if Old Joe wants to get rid of the main mystery man who took over the mobs and started getting rid of all the old loopers? What if Old Joe wants to get rid of the Rainmaker before he becomes the Rainmaker? Well, then Present Joe has a problem.
Rian Johnson creates a dystopian future where the separation between the haves and have-nots is to the extreme. Human life has no value, and the refuge of society wander the country like hobos of old. Law and civility have broken down where the average citizen can shoot a thief in the back with impunity, and the police report to the mob. It is also a world very much set in our reality. New “motorcycles” that hover share the road with cars & trucks that have been retrofitted with solar panels and Miatas that are considered classic cars. A world with sleek skyscrapers, poor row house neighborhoods, and 100-year-old farm houses.
As for the story, at its simplest it is The Fugitive. The Rainmaker is the one-armed man, Old Joe Dr. Kimble, and Present Joe Agent Gerard. But at the visceral level it is a story of how far someone will go. How far will a mother go to defend her son, a man to protect his wife, a person to protect himself. Though in some ways aspects of the story are predictable, how it gets you there is totally unexpected and refreshing.
The success of the film rests solely on the shoulders of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Present Joe is morally and emotionally bankrupt. His “friends” are other Loopers, his “girlfriend” a hooker, and he is a junkie. Bruce Willis as Old Joe has found peace in his life, and is now willing to die to protect it and the one he loves. He’s John McClane from Die Hard but older. Emily Blunt is Sara, a mother and farmer. More importantly, Emily Blunt owns this role. You understand where she is coming from and what she is willing to do to protect her son. You also see why Present Joe grows as a human in her presence and their interactions. In effect, Present Joe becomes Old Joe without the thirty years of history.
Looper is a film that stays in your head after you are done watching it. You think about it the following day. Your appreciation for it growing with each new thought. I didn’t know where Looper was going to go when it started, but I can say that I never expected it to take me where it did. And for that I thank the entire creative team.
Grade = A-