Writer-director Rian Johnson's “Looper” is a constantly tense, brain-mashing story that upholds its internal logic at every turn — a tough assignment in the time-travel subgenre. This is an original story that sits perfectly alongside the classics of cyberpunk, and is easily one of the best science fiction films in years.
“Looper” accounts for modern malaise in its depiction of a blighted future, most of which takes place in 2044 Kansas, and the Kansas City of the future is a city-state of horrors. The gainfully employed are mostly working in shadow economies — prostitution, convenience stores where everything looks like it fell off a truck, and the body-disposal professionals known as “loopers.” The balance of society consists of desperate and uneducated panhandlers and petty criminals. The future is not a pretty place in “Looper,” and those unwilling or incapable of compromising principles or grabbing the few brass rings left are just doing time in a crumbling world.
Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a looper, and the job is simple, bloody and enabled by the invention of time travel — something that is being exploited by criminals even father into the future. He and his fellow loopers work for Kansas City boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), a visiting gangster from 2072 who oversees the operation. At appointed times, Joe travels to a remote Kansas cornfield and waits for a victim from 2072 with a bag over his head to appear, beamed from a place where time travel has effectively made it impossible to get rid of enemies using normal methods. Joe then takes out his blunderbuss, a cylindrical firearm, kills them instantly and collects the silver bars taped to the victim's body.
Here is the catch: a 2070s overlord known as The Rainmaker is “closing the loop” on the loopers, sending the older versions of themselves back to 2044, tricking the loopers into a 28-years-in-advance suicide. In these cases, there are gold bars instead of silver, and the loopers leave the business, retired with the knowledge that they have expiration dates and are their own executioners. If one fails to carry out the suicide-in-advance, Abe knows immediately and sends other loopers to kill the errant one.
Joe has seen this happen to colleagues, but when his older self (Bruce Willis) appears in the cornfield with gold bars, the young man is thrown off his game. Old Joe has an agenda: he must kill the little boy who becomes The Rainmaker, and there are a few possible candidates. If Young Joe wants to stay alive — for awhile — he must kill Old Joe. If Old Joe wants to get the Rainmaker-to-be, he must simultaneously fight and protect his younger version.
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Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano. (For strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content)