Movies about time travel can get so caught up in the mechanics of the science fiction, coming up with convoluted explanations to deal with the paradoxes inherent in time travel, that sometimes they can forget you still need a good underlying story. Not so with the third film from Rian Johnson, a deeply felt narrative about destiny and how our past shapes the inevitabilities of our future selves, that keeps its time travel logic simple, and just fuzzy enough to allow for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hitman whose entire job involves going to a rural field at an appointed time and shooting the person who will suddenly appear upon the tarp he’s laid out. The victims have been sent from the future, where criminals use time machines mostly to send people they want to get rid of back to the past to be killed and disposed of, removing any evidence of the murder from their present. The only catch to his job is that eventually he’s going to have to kill his future self, sent back 30 years after the termination of his contract to “close the loop”. If Gordon-Levitt looks not like himself in those trailers, it’s because he’s been made up to look like a younger version of that future self, played here by Bruce Willis, who is prepared to avoid his death the moment he pops up in front of the gun of his younger self.
If any of that sounds confusing, don’t worry: Johnson makes the time travel bits easy to comprehend by keeping it simple and not overdoing the science fiction. Once the future Joe escapes death at the hands of his younger self, he goes on the run to try to alter the past so that he’ll never have come back at all. Meanwhile, Joe is on his tail, while the criminal syndicate is on both their tails to clean up the mess. Part science fiction, part mob movie, and with a nice infusion of dark comedy at just the right moments, Looper is Johnson’s best movie yet, and manages to be hugely entertaining, affecting, and thought-provoking.over at Washingtonian.
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