Looper is more cerebral and complex than I ever could have imagined from the trailers. It's a thinking man's science fiction film with a bold plot that grabs you from the opening frame. I really had to think about this film to digest it. After days of mulling it over, my respect for Looper has grown considerably. Writer/director Rian Johnson has an intricate, nuanced story to tell. But instead of dumbing it down for the spoon fed masses, Johnson sticks to his guns and delivers a sharp, thoughtful film; led by the brightest young actor in Hollywood, the remarkable Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Levitt stars as Joe, a futuristic hit man referred to as a Looper. He lays out a tarp in a desolate corn field, pulls out his can't miss weapon called a blunderbuss, and waits for a hooded, restrained person to appear instantly. He shoots them without thought, never seeing their faces. He collects the silver strapped to their bodies as payment; then burns the corpse in a nearby incinerator. These hooded victims are from an even more distant future where time travel is possible, but killing a human and disposing of the body is nearly impossible to cover up. So the victims are sent back to the past to be murdered and disposed of seamlessly. The system is flawless until a Looper kills someone strapped with gold instead of silver. This means that you've just killed yourself, thus closing your own loop. The gold is the consolation prize to enjoy the rest of your life in relative riches.
Bruce Willis stars as Old Joe. Needless to say the closing of Joe's loop does not turn out to be so cut and dry. There's something amiss in the future. Someone, a super criminal called the Rain Maker, has been closing off all the loops. Joe's loop in particular is the one he's really been after. No one knows who the Rain Maker is, or where he came from. The only clue is a series of numbers that identifies him, in the past. Couple the time travel paradoxes with telekinetic mutants and you have a plot that will leave your brain ringing.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is tremendous in this film. He's got a prosthetic nose to make him look more like Bruce Willis, but he nails the performance effortlessly. I wish they hadn't given him a new nose, it's really not necessary to buy into his character. The future that young Joe lives in is a bleak world of haves and have-nots. He lives a life addled with drug addiction and aimlessness. The pursuit of his older self, and the discovery of the Rain Maker, is a fairly introspective journey for a lost soul. The great duality of the plot, without revealing spoilers, is that Old Joe has found the same purpose and will not give it up. It's like fighting yourself for a greater purpose. Levitt has been around as an actor for a long time. He had success as a child actor, transitioned into making Indie films, and has now come full circle as a bonafide Hollywood star.
Director Rian Johnson has a history of good work and continues that streak with Looper. He wrote and directed the brilliant Indie crime drama, Brick, also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. That film is very much like Looper in that it's so different and textured. Johnson has a keen mind for structure. His films are layers upon layers of plot tightly woven around distinct characters. I am an unabashed fan of his work. Johnson has the right stuff and is clearly progressing as a first rate filmmaker.
Looper is not a simple film meant for casual viewing. If you're looking for date night, check your brain at the door escapism, this is not the film for you. There's too much effort and cleverness put into Looper to be seen haphazardly. If you like science fiction, abstract thought, and good old fashioned action, you're in for a treat. Looper is a must see for the right audience.