It’s been a busy couple of years for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, rising from promising star to full on movie lead man. But battling Bruce Willis in sci-fi gold is the stuff of dreams.
Donning some of the most subtle prosthetics seen, Levitt joins forces once more with Brick Director Rian Johnson to play Joe, a time hit-man taking out the future’s trash.
In the present day 2044, Levitt’s appropriately used voice-over tells us all about time travel and ‘Loopers’ where in the even distant future of 2074, it being nearly impossible to dispose of a body, time travel has created the opportunity for gangsters to send their mark back and have a Looper “do the necessaries”.
With time-travel outlawed, it’s an enterprise only reserved for the largest criminal organisations and the prospering Loopers, but when the future’s boss’s start calling in contracts and “closing loops” time is up for Joe and Co. after agreeing to “a specific proviso” of a virtual death sentence.
But it’s not all bad, “you get a golden pay day, you get a handshake, and you get released from your contract. Enjoy the next thirty years”.
So enters future Joe, (Bruce Willis) and so begins Johnson’s future sci-fi mash up of action and head wrecking. After “letting his loop run” the chase is on as older Joe sets about changing his own future gone awry.
Making only his third feature, Johnson’s future is grounded in the past and our present, making Looper a fresh, relatable take on an already well time-travelled movie mainstay.
This future isn’t gleaming; grimy retrofitted cars still run on roads, weapons remain unsophisticated, music is old school. Twentieth century affectations build a believable used world and the future tech of gliding bikes and see through phones are purposely shown to be fallible. It’s a stagnated future, where time itself looks to have stood still and a minority race of telekinetic mutants (“TK’s”) hint at a future gone badly wrong.
And the central, intertwined obligation of the future and present day Joe to save/murder the juvenile “Rainmaker” sets this botched future on course for good or ill.
Actions and consequences are vital in this Joe entanglement, alternate realities and affects are brilliantly shown with older Joe looping to present day Joe, giving a mind-boggling premise and one of Looper’s highlight sequences, a future-past montage stylishly spanning thirty years, turning Levitt into ‘Bruno’.
Further highlights come in the first meeting of the Joes, seeing for the first time just how good those Levitt prosthetics are in creating a believable younger version, revealing what instantly becomes a statement on duality and the course of time bringing both physical and personality changes. Thirty years making the Joes both allied and the same, but equally estranged and opposed; essentially creating two distinct characters.
At times a distracting façade, the face-mask would not convince without a brilliant performance from Levitt, with familiar Willis like eye brow raises and smirking; proving as always, that impersonating the living remains ever challenging, even more difficult when mimicking your on screen opposite man.
Willis’ play though pulls the more, fighting for a life taken and tormenting for the lives he is now compelled to take. A Terminator with a heart.
Emily Blunt’s latterly seen axe-loving mom takes the deviating second half onto a satisfying and perfect conclusion.
But it’s Director Johnson’s commitment to keep his own emotional story at the forefront that makes this more than just an adventurous time-tale. Well-defined themes of consequence, choice and an inventive take on movie time-travel fundamentals elevate Looper to be a stinging drop in the eye for an over trodden genre.
Like a closed loop pay day, it’s pure sci-fi gold.