Nonstop Movies: ‘Looper’

Well I certainly wasn’t expecting that.

Because trailers these days give practically everything away, I thought I had “Looper” all figured out. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a looper, an assassin in the year 2044, whose job is to kill people sent from 30 years in the future and dispose of their bodies. When Bruce Willis appears as his next assignment, he learns that Willis is actually a 30-year older version of himself sent from the future. That initial shock gives Willis enough time to avoid getting shot and escape. Then it’s up to Gordon-Levitt to chase down his future self to make things right with his bosses. Throw in a few cool chase scenes, some dazzling special effects, and two hours later you’re out the door with an empty popcorn box and $12 less in your wallet. Thank you very much, see you again when the sequel arrives in two years.

But “Looper” offers more than that, so much more. The movie studio pulled a very savvy move by not revealing any of the real plot of in its marketing. Sure, there are some chase elements the trailer alludes to, but I loved the fact that the movie actually makes the viewer guess what’s going to happen as the story develops. Movies, especially action films, have been dumbed down to such a degree that we all know how they’ll end and simply hope for a fun ride getting there. With “Looper,” I actually furrowed my brow a few times as I tried to piece together where the film was going, and I loved that I probably developed some new wrinkles in my cerebral cortex rather than turning my brain off for two hours.

But film fans shouldn’t be intimidated by an action film that encourages thought. It’s not complex by any means. It just gives you information on a need-to-know basis, and that kind of ace-up-the-sleeve storytelling is refreshing.

Writer and director Rian Johnson paces the film nicely, and while not dull at any moment, he does take his time to make his characters well rounded and rightfully so. The characters played by Gordon-Levitt, Willis and Emily Blunt all have different motivations, and the audience can’t but help but root for all of them. Gordon-Levitt continues to show that he’s leading man material and perfectly copies Willis’ mannerisms and speech delivery. Willis has done it all in his career, but it’s clear that he’s not phoning this performance in and shows several levels of emotion. I’ve never really been a fan of Blunt’s as I’ve always thought of her playing British snobs, but she too, is superb playing a single mom living on a farm.

What flaws the film has are minor, and I attribute them mostly to the inexperience of Johnson, who’s primarily only worked on the low-budget film, “Brick,” before this. There are some scenes that are unintentionally funny in their execution, and that almost make you think that he’s sending up moments from action films of the past, but I’m positive he’s not. He just needs to polish up his style a little more.

“Looper,” 118 minutes, is Rated R and opens in theaters today.