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Looper

Year: 2012
Production Co: Endgame Entertainment
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Cast: Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Paul Dano

Witness the rise to A-list stardom of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, if he isn't there already. Looking only slightly wrong with his lightly coloured eyes and facial appliances, the idea by writer/director Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom, Brick) wasn't to make him look exactly like his older self (Bruce Willis) as Joe, but the effect is kind of disquieting in the same way CGI still can't quite replicate the nuances of the human gait.

It's about the only criticism you can ascribe to this very inventive sci-fi action movie that manages to cram a slew of high-minded ideas into a surprisingly digestible romp. It manages to avoid the plotting pitfalls that bedevil most time travel movies and introduces some inventive new ideas from old tropes. When the older version of Joe's friend and fellow looper Seth (Paul Dano) finds his way to an address that suddenly appears etched into his arm while extremities and limbs gradually disappear from his body, he opens the door at the flesh-inscribed address to find his young self being butchered by a surgeon, a ruse to get both Seths together to kill them or 'close the loop'.

A looper, you see, is an assassin who accepts a Faustian bargain. He or she will accept a comparatively shorter life of luxury in the poverty-ravaged near future of 2044 in return for doing the dirty work of a mob cartel in the future who sends victims back in time to be whacked and disposed of. The catch is that at some stage their overlords will do what's called 'closing the loop', sending the looper's older self back to be killed, carrying a huge golden parachute and tying up a loose end.

But when Joe goes to a routine hit out in the cornfields and his own self (Willis) arrives, looking straight back into Joe's eyes, he freezes and old Joe makes a daring getaway. Suddenly Joe is hunted by his present-day handlers, mob boss Abe (Daniels) and his small army of gunman thugs, trying to figure out what his old self wants in the past.

There seems like there might be an alliance between the two during a very tense chat in a roadside diner before the older Joe outlines his purpose. A young boy of the present will grow up to be The Rainmaker, the shadowy figure responsible for the whole crime syndicate that employs loopers. The Rainmaker's goons will be responsible for killing Joe's beloved wife in Shanghai decades hence, so he's come to the past voluntarily to track down and destroy the kid before he gets the chance.

The only problem is one of the prime candidates is the good-natured young son of farm girl Sara (Blunt), who Joe finds himself an erstwhile protector of as he hides out from Abe's men.

Johnson lets the story and characters stand out for him, eschewing a lot of visual design tics to showcase the near future. And with such a strong hook (you're a contract killer and the latest victim to come face to face with you is your older self), it doesn't need an excess of style.

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