Looper is an intriguing, gritty science fiction thriller led by a talented cast and kept alive by stylish direction and smart writing.

The film takes place in the year 2044, a grimy and rundown future that’s both harsh and convincing. It introduces Joe ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an assassin whose job is to kill people that the mob of the future want dead. They send them back in time where he kills them and disposes of their bodies. There are many of these ‘loopers,’ named after the fact that once the boss is done with them, their boss sends their future selves back so their present selves will kill them, hence closing the “loop.” Gold bars are strapped to the bodies (silver on a regular victim), which act as their payment. Joe’s friend fails to kill his future self, and when Joe ends up doing the same, he pursues himself in order to save his own future. Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, n the other hand, is trying to fix his own problems.

Gordon-Levitt makes for a convincing main character. I liked how his performance felt unique and nothing like his role in Inception, Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight. Both Looper and Inception are original concepts in the science fiction thriller genre, but luckily they bear little to no resemblance. The effects to alter Gordon- Levitt’s appearance and make him look more like Bruce Willis were well executed. Willis is in top form here, and Emily Blunt is surprisingly strong as well. She plays a farmer with an estranged son played by Pierce Gagnon. Even Gagnon does a tremendous job as Blunt’s young son, Cid, who becomes significant to the plot around the middle of the film.

The visual effects are a bit limited but for the most part well done. Looper wholly embraces its R rating with plenty of coarse language, shooting, and flying blood. Director Rian Johnson puts characterization and plot first and foremost, leaving the action secondary. Though the action scenes are limited, they are exciting and well done. One of my favourite moves the director makes early on is to establish time travel exists, but never goes into any detail or paradoxes. It simply works and is admittedly confusing, and we just have to get over it. “TK,” a mutative telekinetic concept introduced near the beginning, seemed kind of strange in this context. However, it quickly plays an important role in the plot and I found myself accepting it and even enjoying what the characters did with this power.

There were few things I disliked about this movie. I noticed a couple of small plot holes that weren’t detrimental to the story but did undermine the otherwise convincing plot. It’s never explained how the future can communicate with the past to synchronize when and where loopers must be to eliminate their targets. Joe is just standing there eyeing his watch because the target is late on arrival, but how he finds out the exact time and place we never know. The middle of the film is sparse on action and a bit slow. Even though it stumbled with pacing, it’s redeemed by giving the audience relevant and insightful background on these individuals throughout. The climax of the film is bleak but is ultimately satisfying.

Overall, I found Looper to be an engaging and original piece of sci-fi that is definitely worth watching. Minor plot holes aside, Johnson delivers a well rounded, thought-provoking story substantiated by strong actors and a slick concept.

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