A looper is a hired killer. He has been hired by an unseen crime boss 30 years into the future, because when time-travel finally becomes possible, it’s too difficult to easily dispose of a dead body. So this crime boss sent a man named “Abe” (Jeff Daniels) back to the 2040s to hire some assassins. The work is easy, the victim arrives from the future at a specified time, at a specified place. The payment for killing and disposing of the body is several silver bars attached to the body.
“Joe” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper. He is also an addict. The unnamed drug is dispensed via an eyedropper directly into the eye and he uses a lot of it. We also see him shooting a lot of guys from the future with his ‘blunderbuss’ and keeping some of his silver bars tucked away for the future. He knows that his future is a finite amount of time because part of being a looper means being willing to “close your loop.”
That’s how a looper is fired. His future self is sent back for him to kill, along with a bunch of gold bars, to see him through the next 30 or so years. Failing to close your loop is… not an option.
When Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) appears, he isn’t bound or wearing a hood and he quickly gets the upper hand on Joe. This forces Joe to hunt him down, because Abe and his hired guns are going to kill both Joe and his future self the minute they can find either. But Joe’s future self is in the past by choice and to accomplish a specific goal.
In his hunt for his future self, Joe ends up on a farm owned by “Sara” who lives there with her young son Cid. Their futures are intertwined with Joe’s for reasons best left for the viewer to see for themselves.
Rian Johnson is a talented filmmaker and Looper is a fine third effort following Brick and the less enjoyable but competent Brothers Bloom. The action sequences are more than adequate and the story is intriguing, although like most movies and TV that deal with the paradoxes of time-travel, questions about the concept of moving through time and changing the past are always raised.
The classic paradox is a man going back in time and killing his grandfather. So if the time-traveler’s father is never conceived, how does he get born to go back in time and kill his grandfather? Similar questions about the path taken by the current and future versions of Joe as they move through the same time period may take one aback momentarily.
Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt are very good and Jeff Daniels makes an excellent villain. Piper Perabo has a few nice moments in a small role, but sadly Bruce Willis appears to have phoned this one in. Being a big fan of his work, this particular performance was disappointing.