23 Aug 2014
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It's Back to the Present in this clever time-travel film.

Sometimes I wish I were Jim Carrey's character in the wonderful film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Then, as a reviewer, I could come to each film unencumbered with memories of the thousands of movies I’ve watched over a lifetime and enjoy what is on screen as if it’s all new and fresh. Alas, that is not to be.

Given that handicap, there is much to enjoy in this often loopy, slightly off-kilter (deliberately, no doubt), quasi-sci-fi, adventure-action film. It takes us on a wild ride with some spills and chills, even if -- at the end -- we don’t feel completely like we’ve gotten our money’s worth.

Looper has a promising, inventive premise that hooks us deliriously in the first 20 minutes. Namely, it takes us to a not too distant future—2074 to be exact—where time travel is a reality but is used only secretly for criminal purposes.

  • Looper is playing at the Regency at 2:10 p.m., 4:45 p.m. and 7:20 p.m.

People are sent back to the present, only to be bumped off in a cane field in the middle of Kansas, summarily executed by “loopers” who are paid assassins. The assassins' rewards are gold ingots taped to the victims’ bodies. 

Are you with me so far? This is the easy part. Always stylish and beautifully photographed, the film demands some huge chunks of suspension of disbelief, super-jaded as we are by every conceivable far-fetched ploy in a canon that includes Back to the Future, Star Wars, Sixth Sense, The Terminator, Casablanca (yes!) and -- with the blunderbuss as the weapon of choice -- strong shades of No Country for Old Men. But, unlike the psychopathic killer played by Javier Bardem in the Coen brothers' film, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s contract killer comes off as a sane, well-groomed professional who carries out his quotidian killings as if he were herding sheep in a meadow. The actor once again proves his virtuosity. 

To reveal more plot details would risk being a spoiler, because much of the screenplay by Rian Johnson, who also directed, depends on our delight in discovering layers of complexity on the otherwise well-trod turf.

Suffice to say Gordon-Levitt’s younger self encounters his “older” self (played by Bruce Willis), who drops down onto the designated tarp in the field to be summarily liquidated. Willis, fresh off his triumphant role in the enchanting Moonrise Kingdom, is back to his macho smirking ways and the role suits him well. Balding, slightly jowly and paunchy, the veteran actor can still intimidate with the best of them. To imagine Gordon-Levitt morphing into him some 30 years hence is both chilling and fun to contemplate.

I’ll leave it to you to figure out the machinations that involve “closing the loop” of the victims sent back from the future, but for the most part, Loopers is a trip worth taking. Emily Blunt, almost unrecognizable from her earlier roles, is effective as the one love interest in this otherwise strictly male world of guns and violence.  Nice work all around. 

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