Movie sends audiences for a loop

Shelby Devitt

From what I understand, ladies love Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He looks good in suits, plays mild, non-threatening characters like Tom in (500) Days of Summer and is generally an artistic soul. Will they love him more or less as a drug-addicted hit man from the future with Bruce Willis’s face?

Writer-director Rian Johnson’s third film Looper debuted this weekend, proving his versatility in the industry. Each of his films is distinctly different from the others, and Looper is by far his most commercially marketed film yet, but trademark elements of his style still emerge.

Set in 2044 Kansas, Gordon-Levitt and Willis play the same character at different ages. In the opening scene, we see Joe, played by Gordon-Levitt, standing in a cornfield. His voiceover informs us, “Time travel has not been invented yet, but in 30 years it will be.” Joe is a looper, a man hired by a crime organization to assassinate people transported from the future.

Loopers are under contracts that include having to assassinate their future selves. This is called “closing your loop.” Failure to close your loop results in horrible consequences. One day, standing in the cornfield, Joe comes face-to-face with his future self…and he gets away. In the process of tracking his loop down, Joe unexpectedly becomes involved in the lives of Sara (Emily Blunt) and her young son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).

Casting was well done, and British Blunt had me convinced as a Midwestern single mom with a shotgun. Gordon-Levitt and Willis successfully pull off playing the same person at different stages in life, both full of contempt for the person they are at each age. Gordon-Levitt’s prosthetics and makeup made him look like an eerie mash-up of himself and Bruce Willis, which was subtle enough for me to notice something was different but took me a little while to realize.

Johnson portrayed the not-so-distant future quickly and effectively. The dichotomy between rich and poor in the city where Joe lives is dire, shown when he drives a red flashy convertible through slums where people shoot each other for theft. The loopers party in a decadent club with prostitutes and a drug taken via eyedropper. Technology has not advanced much, except for hovering motorcycles, thin glass pane cellphones and 3-D billboards. Johnson chose to make analog clocks a recurring image, typical of his tendency to have characters use older technology in a modern setting. Joe carries a pocket watch, teaches himself French from a traditional dictionary and wears neckties, an “old” style that irritates his boss.

Overall, I enjoyed Looper. I’ve seen action and violence in Johnson’s films, but never to this extent. While it is a violent film, it didn’t feel excessive given the setting. There were a few moments in the plot I felt were a bit trite, but I’ll chalk it up to the move toward appealing to a larger market.

The film focuses on themes of history repeating itself, mother-child relationships and violence as a means of protecting the ones you love versus violence for profit. You have to think a little bit, especially through the time travel aspect, to grasp Looper, but Johnson’s mix of action, suspense and time travel made for a Friday night well spent.