"Looper" lets Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Old Joe (Bruce Willis) and moviegoers off the hook.
When the two versions of the same hitman, separated by 30 years, meet in a diner for a deliciously dramatic scene, Old Joe says he doesn't want to talk about time travel. "We'd be here all day making diagrams with straws," he suggests.
Thank you, Old Joe.
3 stars = Good
- Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt.
- Rating: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content.
In other words, just accept the movie's premise that in the 2070s, time travel will be possible but outlawed. However, when mobsters want to eliminate someone, they zap victims back to 2044 Kansas, where a looper or hitman such as Joe uses a crude, forceful gun called a Blunderbuss to kill the person.
The victim usually arrives near a sugar cane field gagged, arms tied and with a sack over his head. When Joe finds himself staring at his intended target -- his own unmasked, familiar and middle-age face -- Old Joe escapes, and a race is on to survive and determine who is calling the savage shots in the future and how to prevent the collateral damage of other lives lost.
The twisty sci-fi thriller also stars Jeff Daniels as a crime boss, Paul Dano as a fellow looper and Emily Blunt as a young mother living in a farmhouse with her son, played by Pierce Gagnon, who unleashes emotions with remarkable fury.
Writer-director Rian Johnson ("Brick," "The Brothers Bloom") presents a grim future, a no-holds-barred attitude about violence, a noble sacrifice and the surprising pairing of Mr. Gordon-Levitt and Mr. Willis.
The 31-year-old, who was in Pittsburgh for part of "The Dark Knight Rises" filming, spent three hours a day in makeup, having his nose, lips, eyebrows and ears altered and donning blue contact lenses to match Old Joe's eyes. It's enough to plant the seed that one could, somewhat improbably, age into the other, and they're such good actors that it doesn't matter.
What would happen if you met your older self, with or without a Blunderbuss? Or your younger one? "Looper" is highly original and smart as it teases the left and right sides of your brain in a good way.