LooperIn the year 2044, Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a “looper,” a hitman who disposes of mafia victims sent back in time from an even farther point in the future. Time travel, you see, is a reality in 2074, but it's also strictly illegal. The mob uses black market time machines to dispose of bodies by sending them back 30 years, where Joe shoots them, carts them to a warehouse, and dumps them in an incinerator.
An easy gig, if you have the stomach for it. Joe likes his job well enough until the day comes when his victim – ported back from the future – turns out to be his own future self (played by Bruce Willis). Awkward!
New this week to DVD and Blu-ray, Looper is one of last year's best and most underrated movies, an intelligent sci-fi thriller packed with stylish performances and intriguing ideas. The film's smartest move is that it doesn't get bogged down in the scientific and logical paradoxes of time travel. It provides just enough information to keep the plot moving, then keeps the focus squarely on the characters.
In one masterfully handled diner scene, old Joe schools young Joe on the futility of trying to figure it all out: "I don't want to talk about time travel, because then we're going to be here all day making diagrams with straws." This amounts to coded instructions from the director to the viewer: Don't worry about it.
Gordon-Levitt is terrific in the lead role. As young Joe, he's a slick and shifty future-noir antihero, willing to kill for money but also adherent to his own notions of honor and loyalty. Willis, playing old Joe, is harder and meaner – diminished by 30 years of thug life but possibly primed for redemption.
Director Rian Johnson, working from his own script, playfully scrambles all the usual thriller rules. He asks: What would happen if the hero and villain were the same person, separated by 30 years of experience?
Around this central premise swirl another couple dozen fascinating sci-fi ideas, revealed in teasing glimpses. For instance, in 2044, approximately 10 percent of the population is telekinetic. The drug of choice, among mobsters anyway, is administered by eyedrop. Street currency appears to be limited to blocks of precious metal or, intriguingly, Chinese paper denominations.
Look for nice supporting character turns from Emily Blunt as a determined homesteader defending her farm from marauders, and Jeff Daniels as a lethal but strangely likeable mob boss.
Looper is the kind of hard-nosed, intelligent science fiction that should appeal to fans of movies like Children of Men, Dark City and the more successful Philip K. Dick adaptations (Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly). The story goes places you won't expect, and all those little touches add up to fully realized fictional future. If you're an aficionado of cerebral sci-fi, Looper is one for the permanent home video library.
Extras: Bonus material on the DVD version includes deleted scenes, production featurettes and a commentary track from director Johnson. Blu-ray adds additional deleted scenes plus some mini-docs on the science of time travel.
Also New This Week:
Cosmopolis: Robert “Team Edward” Pattinson stars in director David Cronenberg's literate and talky adaptation of the futuristic Don DeLillo novel.
Justified: The Complete Third Season: The critically acclaimed FX series chronicles the adventures of Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as he fights villainy in the wilds of Kentucky.
Being Human: The Second Season: The cult hit Syfy series follows three paranromal roommates – vampire, werewolf and ghost – passing as 20-something hotties in hipster Boston.
Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor.
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