It's the year 2044 and the young adult Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has the nasty but lucrative job called looping a special kind of hit man for a crime syndicate. It's no ordinary mob profession of getting an assignment from the boss, searching out the victim, eliminating him and stealthily walking away in the night. As long as you have the mentality for it, looping turns out to be a fairly easy occupation as Joe never has to see the face of his victims. Using a specially devised blunder-bust shotgun, one shot to the body of a bound and hooded man on his knees, a short ride to a furnace for disposal and call it a day. Even better, the victim cannot be traced because he has been transported 30 years back from the future for extermination. Payment for a day's work, several bars of silver worth millions in future value.
Things have gotten bad for the mobsters in the future and their leader The Rainmaker has decided to shut down looping operations. But because the loopers who are now 30 years older in the future know too much, he wants to eliminate them. Not known to the present day loopers, some of them have been assigned to kill their older selves. When Joe's number comes up to kill his future self (Bruce Willis) things take an unexpected turn putting Joe and his future in mortal danger.
The brilliance here comes with the script, a futuristic quandary with a number of consequences that could alter the future like a pebble thrown into a pond that causes a ripple of change. With older Joe we find that his older self has a mission to do just that and this is where the story takes on a different look. Intriguing and involving the science fiction film gets played out to a clever explosive finale.
Creating good characters takes a lot of control over a cast especially this one with high profile actors like Willis, Emily Blunt and Gordon Levitt, but director Rian Johnson does a great job of maintaining a tight ship. Keeping the extensive action moving at a fast clip and making his actors work hard certainly shows on the screen. I like the chemistry between Paul Dano and Gordon-Levitt as they really look like good friends that would do anything to help each other out, even if it means death. I would have enjoyed a little more character history between the two, but it would have prolonged the nicely written film.
Since young Joe and older Joe ‘have' to look similar, the make-up crew takes on a very big challenge of changing Gordon-Levitt to look like Willis at 30 years difference. Mostly altering his lips, cheeks, nose, and putting a Bruce Willis cleft in the chin, the crew did a very worthy job. Even in one scene where Gordon-Levitt gets his ear torn, you'll find his older self has the scars. While I feel this is more distracting than necessary, I have to applaud Johnson for a ‘nice try' with continuity. I don't know what the extra make-up may have cost, but they could have just kept it to a minimum like other films I've seen. After all, I think most of the audiences that will see Looper won't care one way or the other about facial features, since they'll be mostly adrenaline seekers anyway. (While they were at it however, they should have raised Willis's neck up a couple of inches.)
Although you have to wait nearly half way through the movie to see her, Emily Blunt plays Sara as a tough gal who lives a secluded life with her special abilities son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Strong and ornery, Sara won't put up with intruders and finds herself being overly protective of Cid. When young Joe finds himself on the run from certain death and gets an important clue to older Joe's mission, he searches out Emily to hide him. The two actors are nicely matched and create a realistic romantic bond adding to the complexity to the story.
Looper has been rated R by the MPAA for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content. The violent death sentences are quite vile so be prepared when the executions begin.
FINAL ANALYSIS: An innovative futuristic action thriller with some nice twists. (B)