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Staying in the loop

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Looper' a fresh, fascinating take on time travel

Every once in a while, a film comes along that takes a tired cinematic trope and breathes new life into it. These new and interesting takes on old ideas are relatively rare why have a new take when old takes make plenty of money?

Take the new film 'Looper' for instance. The latest offering from writer/director Rian Johnson takes one of the classic science fiction foundations (time travel) and takes it in a direction that we've never seen onscreen. The result is a smart and challenging film that transcends its speculative origins.

'Looper' takes place in the near-future of 2042. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 'The Dark Knight Rises') is a time-out-of-joint assassin known as a 'looper.' In 2072, time travel will be invented, only to be immediately outlawed. This of course means that only outlaws will utilize time travel; in this case, it means that the organized crime syndicates of the future will use it to dispose of their enemies. They send the people they want eliminated back in time, where loopers quickly kill them and destroy their bodies, effectively making their enemies disappear.

Loopers are well-compensated for their work; however, there's a pretty big catch. When the time comes, a looper will kill a victim only to discover that said victim was the looper's future self. This process is known as 'closing the loop,' an easy method for the crime bosses of the future to ensure that nothing throws off the system they've developed.

However, when Joe is confronted with his own future self (Bruce Willis, 'The Expendables 2'), he is unable to immediately kill him. This leads to chaos as the future mob's present day representative Abe (Jeff Daniels, TV's 'The Newsroom') sends out all of his forces in a damage-controlling effort to kill both Joes.

However, it turns out that future Joe has his reasons for trying to change his past and path reasons that he is willing to kill for and perhaps die for.

In the interest of spoiler prevention, that's about as far as I can go.

'Looper' is the best kind of science-fiction it uses its time travel premise as a foundation for a much deeper, much more complex storytelling. They don't worry about explaining the logistics of the process; we never learn how time travel works, nor do we need to. The film is about the choices we make and the far-reaching and unexpected ramifications of those choices.

Gordon-Levitt is phenomenal as Joe. He is a man who has never had reason to question who he is or what he does, but when confronted by the reality of his own future, he finds himself willing to compromise everything that he was in order to carve a new path. Willis brings a wonderful sense of determined desperation to Old Joe; he's a man who understands that he will never find his way back to the life he once had, yet still wants to ensure that parts of that life still take place. The scenes between the two of them bulge with sadness, anger and confusion; they are mesmerizing to watch.

There's a wonderful noir sensibility to 'Looper.' There's a stylized feeling to the proceedings the weapons and wardrobes of the loopers evokes a dissonant future-past and paints a fascinating future. There's a throwback attitude surrounding everything that creates a world that is relatable despite its perceived distance from our own time.

This film is challenging in the best ways. Twists and turns abound; the story is filled with unexpected switchbacks and jarring shifts in tone that leave the viewer unsure of just what kind of movie he is watching. Moments of surprising darkness are offset by brief glimpses of levity as we're kept guessing to the very end.

Storytelling is at its best when it provides you with an unexpected journey. 'Looper' does that, and does so with style and elegance. Go see this movie.

5 out of 5

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