Movie fans can ring in the New Year with an excellent time-travel thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis as two versions of the same character.
3½ stars (out of four)
Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and on demand
Time-travel films are fraught with complexities that leave thoughtful moviegoers debating merits and flaws long after the credits roll; and “Looper,” written and directed by Rian Johnson, is one of the strongest entries we’ve seen in years. The movie is set in the United States in the year 2044. Time travel has not yet been invented, but a select group of criminals know the technology will arrive in just three decades. Because murder has become difficult in future America, criminals have begun sending their victims to 2044, where assassins called loopers shoot them and dispose of the bodies. Being a looper is lucrative, but it comes with one big down side. All loopers must eventually kill their future selves, thus “closing their loops.” Johnson’s movie focuses on Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a capable killer who is living the high life until he’s asked to kill the older version of himself (Bruce Willis) and fails to complete the task. Since the crime syndicate that Joe works for has no mercy, Joe desperately tracks his older incarnation, hoping to fulfill his contract. In the meantime, old Joe pursues a mission that has the potential to change Earth history. Johnson’s script is wonderfully complicated, but “Looper” isn’t purely cerebral. The movie is also action packed, so fans of shoot-’em-ups will find plenty to like.
“Looper” has generated considerable awards attention, including five nominations for the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and a spot on the National Board of Review’s list of the best movies of 2012. The success is due, in large part, to the excellent cast, particularly Levitt and Willis, who are terrific at playing two versions of the same man. Levitt, in particular, is fun to watch. Wearing facial prosthetics and makeup, he looks startlingly convincing as a young version of Willis. Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano are also great in key supporting roles. Johnson does a good job explaining the intricacies of the plot while also keeping the pace steady and engaging, a combination that isn’t easy to achieve. In fact, if it weren’t for one bizarre (and troubling) editing choice, “Looper” would be a perfect science-fiction movie.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, making-of features and an audio commentary with Johnson, Levitt and Blunt.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Cosmopolis”: Director David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel about a wealthy asset manager (Robert Pattinson) whose world implodes during a routine trip to the barber. Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Kevin Durand and Jay Baruchel also star.
“Justified” – The Complete Third Season: Fresh episodes of the FX drama about a U.S. Marshall (Timothy Olyphant) willing to step outside the law to keep his Kentucky hometown in order. Season four isn’t slated to air until March, meaning viewers have plenty of time to watch the 13 episodes included here.
“Being Human” – The Complete Second Season: Continuing adventures of a vampire (Sam Witwer), ghost (Meaghan Rath) and werewolf (Sam Huntington) attempting to live “normal” lives and keep their supernatural identities hidden in modern-day Boston.
Brooke Burke exercise videos: Folks hoping to look as trim and fit as 41-year-old TV personality Brooke Burke can try the exercise routines presented as part of her fitness video series. These releases – “Sexy Abs” and “30-Day Slimdown” – are supposed to help users shed pounds and tone up.
– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at email@example.com.