Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis. Written and directed by Rian Johnson. STC. 118 min. Opens Sept. 28.
Paradoxes and plot holes are the bane of even the best time-travel flicks. Though Looper is hardly immune to such lapses in logic, writer-director Rian Johnson has the good sense to acknowledge as much when Bruce Willis’s character tells the younger version of himself not to ask about the whys and hows of their situation lest they waste all day “making diagrams with straws.”
Instead, Johnson uses tropes borrowed from The Terminator and 12 Monkeys as relatively minor elements in an ambitious genre mash-up that begins as a Blade Runner–style future-noir and ends as a hard-edged western. Skillfully negotiating all those tricky twists and turns, Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a hitman in Kansas circa 2042 whose job is to whack dudes who’ve been sent back from further along the space-time continuum. Joe runs afoul of his bosses when his future self (Willis) shows up, only to evade the customary blast to the chest.
Emily Blunt’s appearance as the shotgun-packing mama of a mysterious boy adds more wrinkles to Looper’s complex but carefully orchestrated plot. Displaying the same savvy as he did in 2005’s Brick—the atmospheric high-school-gumshoe tale that marked Johnson’s first collaboration with Gordon-Levitt—the writer/director manages the difficult feat of keeping a vast array of ideas and movie references in play without neglecting key elements of story and character. Though his film’s pace slackens during the build-up to the final showdown, Looper’s own set of schematics yields a highly satisfying result once the many components lock into place.