Saturday, July 16, 2016

Movie #370: Looper

Looper is a sci-fi/neo noir movie about time travel and contract killing. Fun for the whole family! It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, and Pierce Gagnon.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a "looper," a low-rent hitman who waits in a cornfield until his target appears, sent from the future by the crime syndicates that are big news in about 30 years. He shoots the poor fucker with a low-range shotgun called a blunderbuss, and then collects his fee (taped to the victim), disposes of the body, and goes to get high. Eventually, all loopers wind up shooting their future selves, after which they retire and look forward to their eventual fate of being stuffed in a box and sent back in time to get shot. It's a kind of fucked up world.

Joe realizes that lots of "loops" seemed to be getting closed in short order, but then his buddy Seth (Dano) fails to close his own loop. His future self (Frank Brennan) told him that a powerful crime boss in the future, called the Rainmaker, is closing all the loops. Joe, however, doesn't take much notice; he gives Seth up rather than give up his hoard of money when his boss (Daniels) lays that option out, and goes on about his business.

And then his loop (Willis) shows up. Turns out in the future, he meets a woman (Qing Xu) who gets him off the drugs and out of the business of crime...but then when the Rainmaker's people arrives to close his loop, they shoot her. Old Joe, therefore, armed with a single piece of information about the Rainmaker, narrows it down to three suspects, all of whom are about four at this time. And then he goes Terminator on them.

So, a part of this movie is watching Old Joe trying to work up the nerve to shoot some children. We never actually see any of them get shot, but he does kill one innocent kid (because he doesn't really know who his target is). Meanwhile, young Joe finds the last kid's (Gagnon) house and cozies up to his mother (Blunt), after some initial violence, and waits for Joe.

Time travel movies have a habit of either getting really wibbly with their timelines, or otherwise not talking about it and deliberately telling you they're not going to talk about it. Looper does a little of that (Old Joe describes it as a "precise description of a fuzzy mechanism"), but you also come away with enough understanding of how it's supposed to work that it doesn't feel like a total kludge.

Likewise, all of the performances in this movie are amazing, including Gagnon, playing the little boy destined to the be Rainmaker. Everyone has a backstory, even bit characters like Jesse (Garret Dillahunt), the Gat-man who comes to find Joe at Sarah's farm, and even when you don't hear those stories, they're presented in a way that makes for texture. We never learn how Kid Blue (Noah Segan) lost his foot or why Abe was the boss sent back in time to run things, but any of those stories would be really interesting to know, which to me is a good sign in any movie but is crucial in noir.

I am interested to know, however, if Joe dying at the end alters what Old Joe did earlier in the film; it doesn't seem to, because the money is still spilled on the road. And it's very in keeping with the aesthetic of the film if what happened is immutable, and only the "from this point" changes. Lots of people are dead, but the Rainmaker isn't necessarily coming.

My Grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium

Next up: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring