A man must kill himself in order to live.
- In the last few years of his career, Bruce Willis released dozens of low-quality, low-budget movies.
- Bruce Willi’s last great movie was released in 2012, and it’s called Looper.
- Looper is a time-travel movie co-starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
- Levitt plays a younger version of Bruce Willis, hired to kill his older self.
- GFR’s reviewer gives the movie 4.5/5 stars. It has a positive rating on all review aggregator sites.
Due to ailing health, Bruce Willis’s acting career ended in something of a mess, with a string of direct-to-video movies that he barely showed up in. But before he fell into that nearly decade-long denouement of low-budget disasters, he delivered one last great performance in an action movie. That movie was Looper.
Released in 2012, Looper was a modest box office success and a resounding critical success. It was the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson made before being put in charge of a movie where he killed Luke Skywalker.
In Looper, a man must kill himself in order to live, and for a lesser film, that would be enough complication to hang an action movie on. Writer/director Rian Johnson isn’t content with making just another action movie; instead, he takes his audience through twists and turns that transcend his movie’s already high-concept premise by ripping us through a world of impossible choices, and in the process, creates one of the best time travel movies ever made.
In the distant future, time travel will be invented, and in a nearer future Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a hitman hired to murder mob victims sent back from the past. Things seem to be going pretty well for Joe until one of his victims turns out to be his future self. Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, escapes his younger self’s clutches and goes on the run leaving Joseph Gordon-Levitt to chase him while doing the best possible impression of Willis.
Levitt’s Joe is cocky and sure of himself, unconcerned with whatever the future might hold. As Joe explains early on in the film, his job doesn’t exactly attract people who think ahead. Where others might hesitate, Joe charges in, and when his life is on the line, he’s not about to let his future get in the way of his present.
Levitt’s brilliant as a young Bruce Willis, but more importantly, Willis gives one of his last great performances in Looper. Bruce plays his older Joe as a world-weary assassin who won’t let go, no matter how much it hurts. Disgusted by the man he’s been, Joe is desperate to set things right, even if that means becoming something worse. Consequences be damned.
That’s just the start of a story that involves some of the most horrific and creative uses of time travel ever seen on screen. Looper has new ideas in a genre that is too often content with reusing old ones.
Looper lets those new ideas speak for themselves, choosing a stripped-down approach to the future over a flashy world full of flying cars. Director Rian Johnson is confident enough in his story that he can let most of the movie’s action sequences take place in a sugar cane field, knowing that we won’t mind if he’s not dazzling us with special effects. His biggest gadget innovation is a futuristic shotgun called a blunderbuss, and that exists more as a plot point than something to sell toys with. You’ll be too caught up in the plight of Looper’s characters to wish for jetpacks.
This is science fiction doing what it does best. Looper uses big ideas to craft a wrenching story out of a man fighting himself for the right to live. Rian Johnson’s movie is full of surprises at every turn. Don’t miss it.
JOSH’S LOOPER REVIEW SCORE
Looper is currently available to stream on most streaming platforms as a rental, but it’s also good enough to buy a copy for future rewatching.