Red Wolf Review #4: Looper

Looper poster (2012)

In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented – but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper” – a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good… until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. The film is written and directed by Rian Johnson and also stars Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels. 

Movies and television series dealing in any form of time travel are usually my bread and butter. I eat it up any chance I get whether it’s a classic episode of “Star Trek,” the “Back to the Future” series, “Terminator 2, “Lost” or my favorite episode of “Smallville.”

Nothing about the genre has really been innovative or surprised me since the fifth season of “Lost,” I thought I knew all there was to expect from the story telling device. Well, thanks to Rian Johnson’s “Looper,” I now know I was wrong.

You have to be paying attention to “Looper.” You can’t be checking your phone to see what time it is or to see who sent you a text message. Leave it in your car. “Looper” is not a run of the mill sci-fi flick. It is a challenge that makes “Inception” feel like a cake walk.

In his third cinematic outing, following “Brick” and “The Brothers Bloom,” Johnson has fashioned a science fiction film that isn’t just a science fiction romp with action beats thrown around. “Looper” is a marriage of nearly every genre you can think of, action, romance, comedic, with a little horror and even a little dash of Western to set the mood in some scenes.

Remember what I said about “Dredd” last week and how it didn’t over use its genre? The same can be said for “Looper” and then some. Yes, it’s set in the near future of 2044 Kansas, but we’re not talking about “Star Trek” level future here.

It’s a future we can still relate you, but at the same time fear.

But that feeling isn’t possible without the great performances put into it by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (young Joe) and Bruce Willis (older Joe).

When thinking of who could portray a 30 years younger version of Bruce Willis. I doubt many peoples mind went to the guy who used to be on “3rd Rock from the Sun.” But Levitt, who has been in just about everything this year, nails his interpretation of Willis.

Heavy makeup helps pull it off, but it is Levitt’s acting that makes the sell. He has the walk down, Willis’ intense stare and keeps to the elder actor’s form of a short and sweet line delivery.

I’ve always been a lover of stories that show off the generational differences in characters, but I can’t think of a better example of a film giving us a look at how one character could potentially be at another point in his life (with the exception of “Back to the Future II”) and having both generations meet face-to-face.

“Looper” isn’t just one story. Because of time travel you’re slowly and meticulously given bits and pieces of one story, then told rapid fire chunks of another. They coalesce into an end game that will either leave you wanting to re-watch it immediately or never want to watch another time travel movie again.

The supporting cast isn’t one to flinch at, with Jeff Daniels playing a mobster from the future who runs the “Looper” operation who gets some scene stealing moments.             Emily Blunt puts in an emotional performance that reinforces many of the films themes, including the regret of past actions, how those actions affect others and doing all in your power to redeem yourself.

Ultimately though, the movie is about two Joe’s, or one depending on how you want to look at it, and what they are willing to do to hold on to what’s important to them.

If you go into “Looper” having just seen the trailers or tv spots and believing you know the general way the film will play out, prepare yourself. The story will go to places you weren’t expecting and you’ll be able to appreciate one of the few marketing campaigns that didn’t show all of its cards.

I need to see “Looper” again, not just because I enjoyed the movie, but because there are questions I still have. It’s not a perfect movie and I don’t feel I can have a definite opinion until I experience it again.

But from my one viewing, I believe “Looper” will be a movie we talk about for a long time.

Verdict: See it now

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About Daniel McFadin

NASCAR writer for NBCSports.com. Former Sporting News intern. Graduated from IUPUI in Indianapolis with a master in sports journalism in 2014 and from Arkansas State University in 2013 with a degree in Journalism. Originally from Lewisville, Texas, now in Fort Worth. Ask me if I like Star Wars. I dare you.
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