Time Looper, that is.

Main Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt

Director: Rian Johnson

Sigh…time travel movies.  Why are there so many?  Why are they so hard to describe?  WHY DO I KEEP SEEING THEM?  The answer to all three questions is probably the same thing that makes them so frustrating – there are so many complexities and variations on the themes of messing with the time line the story possibilities are as endless as the inevitable impossible plot components.  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Looper.

In the interests of full disclosure, I admit to a nerd crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  Sure, he’s a good looking guy, but it’s more about that awesome onscreen presence that somehow emerged from the annoying kid on 3rd Rock from the Sun.   Who knew?  But there it is, and he doesn’t disappoint in Looper.

The basic premise here is that it is 30 years in the future.  Time travel has not been invented, but the world has pretty much gone to hell.  It appears that the country is going through a slow motion apocalypse.  There is a group of men living here who have traveled back from 60 years in the future, a time when apparently time travel has indeed been invented.  So have other things, like people tracking, that make it hard for bad guys to murder the people they choose.  So they send them back 30 years, the Loopers off them and dispose of them and all is well in bad-guy-land.  JG-L plays Joe.  Joe is a Looper.  Joe is selfish and young and stocking up the considerable loot he earns as a killer for hire so that he can go to France.  But mostly he’s kind of a jerk.  He also has some weird prosthetic nose and upper lip thing going on.

We discover why when we learn what happens when Loopers “close their loop”.  That means that someone 30 years hence has located them and sent them back to be killed by their younger selves.  It’s a way to control them, of course.  Turns out that when Old Joe (his actual character name) shows up for his killing, he’s Bruce Willis and doesn’t want that bullet.  Nor does he get it.  Now the chase is under way – Young Joe chasing Old Joe, Old Joe chasing the man who ordered his execution and the bad guys chasing both.  That nose and upper lip?  Yep, a weird way to make Gordon-Levitt resemble Willis.  I get it, I sort of admire the effort, but it’s distracting enough to hurt what is otherwise a decent movie.

The time travel premise isn’t as vague and amorphous as it could be (and usually is).  The Loopers are a pretty straightforward bunch and “closing the loop” keeps the whole thing from careening off into affecting every single thing in the whole wide world issue.  Those things come up peripherally (they simply cannot be avoided) but the movie is more about Young Joe and Old Joe and how life has changed one into the other.  Neither is perfect – nor even what you might call good.  But they do learn from each other and find themselves questioning their convictions – the same ones they held so firmly when they met.

Gordon-Levitt is great as always.  He gets inside Young Joe and even with his altered face manages to exude a cool intensity that makes him feel both decent and very, very dangerous.  Willis is Willis.  He has some snappy lines – especially when dealing with his younger self – but is also in a more mellow form than he’s usually allowed.  He’s an older guy, with experience, bitterness and an appreciation for some of the things he’s been given in his life that Young Joe is too cocky and brash to consider.  They play fairly well off each other in the few scenes they have together.  I still maintain that the prosthetics were a good idea gone bad.

The rest of the cast fill in the story.  Emily Blunt is a young woman with whom Young Joe strikes up a sort of friendship as he hunts himself.  She’s always good, but her role here isn’t challenging.  More interesting is Pierce Gagnon as her son, Cid.  For a little kid, this boy has some serious intensity and uses it – he’s scary but innocent.  Jeff Daniels appears to represent the bad guys, but has little to do and does little with it.  More fun is Noah Sagan as Kid Blue, a bad guy screw-up who provides some amusing ineptitude throughout.

As far as time travel movies go, Looper manages to sidestep some of the peskier cerebral conundrums by being a fairly simple action movie at heart.  Very good performances from Gordon-Levitt and Gagnon and good ones from Willis and Blunt go a long way toward making the movie engaging and fun to watch.  Get that thing off Gordon-Levitt’s face and I think we would all be a lot happier.  But since that bird has flown and we’re stuck with Gordon-Willis, it’s going to cost the movie half a star (it’s so distracting!).  3 stars out of 5.

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