Rated: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 28, 2012 Released by: Sony Pictures
This time-travel action noir (given its voice-over work) has much more going for than the recent Total Recall, unsettlingly precise and elaborate in ways that are provocatively reminiscent of Inception. Only one plot strand lacks the overall efficient creative brew that calls to mind James Cameron's The Terminator where little really is incongruous and isn't bogged down in its necessary flash-backing.
Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (of the aforementioned Christopher Nolan 'dream' movie and the recently propulsive Premium Rush). It's another successful collaboration with director/writer Rian Johnson (Brick) and costar Jeff Daniels (The Lookout). It pieces together some sizable set-pieces with an intimate atmosphere with gratuitous, lurid strokes.
Gordon-Levitt's older self (Joe) is played quite effectively by Bruce Willis (featuring more acting chops than he's done in while even after freewheeling spry efforts like RED). Joe is the eponymous hired gun (as digital imagery gives a continuity to their appearance that may seem off-putting) some three decades or so ahead in time handling victims sent back from three more decades ahead where his 'retired' self lives.
The intelligent thematically resonant script hinges on Joe "closing the loop" with the 'double' identities on each other's trail, including a milquetoast, yet menacing organizational boss Abe (Daniels) and a dogged minion (Garret Dillahunt). In a way, similar to last year's intermittently explosive Drive, sanctuary for the more youthful Joe is found with a single mother Sara (Emily Blunt of Salmon Fishing on the Yemen), able to get close to her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).
The finely wrought presentation and segue-ways allows Johnson to manage something taut, yet spot-on, including Gordon-Levitt (who's been on a roll lately if you even consider the poignant 50/50) way with a role where an eye-filling narcotic brings character attentions into focus. Willis nicely plays off his imposing virile screen image to considerable cynically filled effect, while Daniels relishes in his chameleon turn, especially opposite a friend/colleague of Joe, Seth (Paul Dano of Ruby Sparks). Blunt uses emotional baggage much to advantage as the romantic splash here works better here than with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau.
Relevant to Joe's evasiveness is the vicious Rainmaker that leaves him with a nasty dilemma before a high point of a showdown which impresses for the stakes that are felt, ultimately in a more benevolent way. Willis and Gordon-Levitt pass the baton to one another with a deft ease as the former gets more screen time in the latter going with recollections in Shanghai with a comely spouse (Xu Qing). Johnson doesn't shy away from the fate of many deviants in an often thrilling tale that coolly navigates through its illicitly tinted premise with prescient, even distracting mannerism while still eye-popping popcorn entertainment.