There’s a lot of fun in watching the diverse Joseph Gordon-Levitt trying to sample just enough of Bruce Willis’ familiar tics and mannerisms to play a younger version of the aging action star in Rian Johnson’s smart and nifty “Looper”(of course, the face-morphing make-up job helps a bit too!). He gets it pretty dead-on at times—and it’s certainly a hoot. It instantly reminded me of the young River Phoenix accomplishing the same feat while impersonating a teenage version of Harrison Ford in the opening minutes of 1989’s “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. You get a bit giddy upon the recognition of the established familiar. In fact, a lot is familiar in “Looper”, though not always to its advantage. You see, I’ve seen “The Terminator”, “The Fury”, “Carrie” and “Twelve Monkeys”(starring, well…you know), so while a lot of this mumbo-jumbo may seem original to some younger folks, it’s “old-hat” to middle-aged guys like me. But Rian Johnson does manage a winning level of panache with his presentation of some not-so-fresh material. So, mumbo-jumbo, or not—it’s very good mumbo-jumbo.
Gordon-Levitt is Joseph Simmons, and he’s a “looper”. Seems to me(I hope I’ve got this all straight!)that time travel has been invented/discovered 30 years or so after the year of the main plotline, which is 2044. Loopers work for a mafia-like syndicate that sends its enemies back in time to be instantly killed and disposed of, therefore making it impossible to be charged with their murders because the bodies effectively disappear. Loopers are in BIG trouble with their bosses if their targets ever escape. They are paid handily in silver and gold though, so getaways rarely happen. Also, the mafioso will also occasionally “close the loop” on a looper contract for security reasons. This entails the looper killing his own future self, therefore knowingly limiting his life to only 30 more years. Again, their handsome rewards are expected to compensate. But then we watch what happens when one looper does manage to let his “kill” run to freedom. And, of course, it then happens to Joseph Simmons too. Not good, looper boy. The chase is on!
There’s a subplot in the film that touches on the fact that a select percentage of the population in 2044 has telekinetic powers. In other words, they were born with the ability to move objects with their minds. Most are only able to show off silly “parlor tricks” like levitating glasses or coins. But there are some who develop a stronger level. How much you want to bet that Simmons finds one of those potent ones—and quite possibly the strongest of all? There’s a nice turn here from Jeff Daniels, playing against type as the crime boss Abe, who treats his loopers with a level of respect—until he’s crossed that is. And Emily Blunt continues to be a gorgeous, young chameleon. She’s a sharp talent—cannily masking her movie star looks a bit with a naturalistic earthiness. Oh, she’s still beautiful—but she plays that weathered, transplanted farm-girl just right. Part of the joy of experiencing a film like “Looper” is figuring out for yourself how all of these things come together, so I won’t blow it with any further synopsis. The script crackles and the direction is taut. The action is lean and the performances are realistic. What more can you possibly ask? Grade: A-