October 4, 2012

'Looper' a compelling, original story


---- — Time travel is the most beloved crutch of the science-fiction genre. Rarely, though, is time travel used with the flair and originality of “Looper.”

Intricate and unpredictable, “Looper” tells a violent and compelling story at a fast enough pace that the viewer never really questions the logic of it all.

The film is set in 2044 in a dystopian (why doesn’t the future ever look better than today?) version of Kansas. Time machines haven’t been invented yet, but they will be by 2074, when only powerful organized crime families have access to the banned devices.

It turns out that dead bodies are extremely hard to hide in 2074, so when criminals want to kill someone, they tie him up and send him back 30 years earlier, where well-paid hoods, called loopers, do the dirty work.

Occasionally, the 2074 version of a looper will be sent back in time to be killed by his younger self, an event called “closing the loop.” The young looper is then retired, sent off with a golden parachute to enjoy the 30 years before his impending death.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, an efficient young looper with an eye toward a cushy retirement. His plans go horribly awry, however, when he’s confronted by Bruce Willis as his future self and flubs an attempted hit.

It’s a bad thing for a future person to be roaming around free — think of the paradoxes — so both versions of Joe face the considerable wrath of Jeff Daniels’s Abe, the grumpy bureaucrat running the looper program.

Gordon-Levitt and Willis are both excellent, and though they’re playing the same character, they see things very differently. Young Joe is dedicated to finding and killing himself to appease his boss. Old Joe is obsessed with righting a future wrong.

The movie also features Emily Blunt as a single mom running a farm that’s unfortunately set in the path of the loopers. Five-year-old Pierce Gagnon, however, steals many of her scenes as her incredibly bright son Cid.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson (who did the same for 2008’s overlooked “The Brothers Bloom”), “Looper” creates a variety of ethical and existential dilemmas, and bears some mind-bending similarities to “Inception.”

It’s worth seeing now, and maybe in the future, too.

Rental Recommendation: What else but Bruce Willis traveling back in time to save the world in “Twelve Monkeys”? Grade: B+

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Looper Grade: A- Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt Rated: R (for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content) Running time: 118 minutes