Looper | Movie review
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young Bruce Willis in Rian Johnson’s time-travel noir.
Of all the wonders in Rian Johnson’s nimble sci-fi noir Looper—hover bikes and telekinesis among them—none is quite as impressive as the sight of Joseph Gordon-Levitt nailing the iconically squinty smirk of his costar, Bruce Willis. Granted, the young actor has some help: Makeup wizards have reshaped his dimply baby face to resemble Willis’s rugged, slightly simian mug. But that flash of bemused self-regard, a trademark since the Die Hard days? That’s all Gordon-Levitt, in an uncanny display of star-on-star mimicry.
Fresh off playing second fiddle in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman movie, JGL appears here as a futuristic assassin (or “looper”) with an especially hassle-free execution method: He drives out to some secluded rural area, aims his short-range rifle into dead air and waits for his bound-and-hooded mark to be transported, by the gangsters of an even-more-distant future, into his line of fire. It’s easy money, but there’s a catch. To tie up loose ends, every looper must eventually close his own loop—meaning, in other words, that one day you’ll be pulling the trigger on an older version of yourself.
All of this is great fun for a while, mostly because Johnson, the whip-smart filmmaker behind Brick and The Brothers Bloom, keeps throwing new stuff at the audience. (There’s a breathless, life-in-fast-forward montage, as well as a wonderfully nasty bit in which an escaped “loop” starts experiencing the effects of what’s happening to his younger counterpart.) The script’s most inspired touch is pitting Gordon-Levitt against his future self (Willis)—a development that Johnson bafflingly bails on, choosing instead to strand our twentysomething hero on a farmhouse, where he plays Kyle Reese to Emily Blunt’s Sarah Connor. Imagine if Terminator spent its entire second half at that motel hideout, and you’re close to understanding how Looper, for all its inventive twists and turns, falls short of greatness.