On the surface, Looper is about as implausible a story as you can possibly get. It's the future, and time travel has been outlawed by world governments. This doesn't seem to stop the criminal element from somehow gaining access to this technology, and using it to eliminate wanted targets by sending them back through time to be killed by specialized 'Looper' agents, thereby making them impossible to find in the future. It seems the future mafia has never heard of hydrochloric acid, but I digress. Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such Looper, who collects his reward in the form of silver bars strapped to bodies of his victims as they are sent back through time. A nonchalant, selfish drug addict, Simmons lives for the moment with no regard for anything except the very next day. Things begin to go haywire when fellow Looper Seth Richards begs to hide out at Simmons' apartment, in fear of his own life. Seth has failed to "close his own loop," which means killing his own future self in order to terminate the contract with the criminal syndicate. Simmons is forced to give up Seth's location or lose his established wealth. Shortly after, Simmons is faced with the same predicament when his own future self (Bruce Willis) is thrown back through time. Before he can react, the older Simmons knocks him out cold and makes his escape. Faced with the same death penalty, Simmons begins a personal manhunt for his future self, while avoiding syndicate hit men who have orders to shoot on sight. But the older Simmons has journeyed back through time for the most personal of reasons, and both become embroiled in something far greater and more far-reaching than they had first anticipated.
Looper deserves maximum credit for tackling a wholly unique kind of story. Yes, we've had action movies centered around time travel before, but not in this vein. The pacing of the film leaps back and forth between loud and boisterous, and tense and introspective. Simmons is the thread that binds the entire story together from start to finish. It's the ultimate display of man vs. himself, in the most literal of senses. The younger Simmons is a crooked, selfish villain, while the older Simmons is driven by a warped, aggressive sense of justice. As different as they are, both are permeated by a deep brutality and penchant for impulsively violent acts. As the story progresses, both of them turn into mirror images of each other by trading places and seeing their lives from a different vantage point, be it for better or worse. It's impossible to give out too much detail without spoiling the film, but that's merely scratching the surface. Looper pulls a fast one on the audience by swinging the entire story in a completely different direction that wasn't even hinted at in trailers or promotional material. The twist is handled with such precision that I found myself sitting up straight in my seat, completely focused on what was going on. Smart filmmaking, indeed! Rest assured, Looper utilizes all the elements of a sci-fi action movie, from future-violence and dystopia, to headache-inducing time paradoxes. Yet, I never quite got the feeling that audiences would be analyzing and debating the subject matter of Looper over say...the Matrix trilogy and its rich symbolism. It's just not that kind of film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is barely recognizable as the younger Bruce Willis, incorporating minor prosthetics and contact lenses in such a manner as to suggest an entirely different actor. Willis has less stake in the film, acting as a plot device with brief moments of intense emotional delivery that serve more as a reference point to the contrasting personality of his younger self, and how both come full circle in relation to one another. The ensemble cast is a great fit as well, with the only odd man out being Jeff Daniels as the ruthless head of the criminal organization. Dumb & Dumber has seen fit to curse Daniels from ever being taken seriously as a threat in any movie, ever again. There are some great action scenes in the film, but they're only shown for the purpose of explaining the consequence of an action. Never once does the film feel like it's heading in the direction of a carefully constructed gun battle or explosion-fest. When the action does come, it's both natural and fitting in relation to the story. That's rare!
Looper may not have been the biggest film of 2012, but it's certainly one of the smartest and most original. You don't need to be an expert in time travel and quantum physics to understand what's going on. The subtlety of the film serves to quietly explain the goings-on without forcing anyone to fumble for the Pause button and ask a friend for help. It's tense, and nerve-wracking up to the very end. Threats and foreboding come from the most unlikely of places. In short...if you think you've got this movie pegged based on watching the theatrical trailer, then think again! While you're at it, grab yourself a copy, sit down, and get pulled in.
On Blu-Ray, Looper benefits from a very good visual transfer, complete with rich detail and strong, healthy colors. The palette can fluctuate dramatically between night shots in the city, and daytime shots in the countryside, where grass can appear slightly more yellow, rather than green. I'm being overly fickle, as I am a fan of saturation, but Looper doesn't overdo it, and that's a good thing. It's 99% devoid of visual defects, including DNR or crush. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a huge standout, and delivers the one thing that I personally demand from Blu-Ray titles: a solid and clear voice channel. Blunderbuss shots thunder across the bass channel with tremendous power, while farmland sounds buzz about and create a rich audio atmosphere, setting the appropriate tones for each scene. On the extras side, Looper is respectable, featuring a Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, and director Rian Johnson commentary track, plus an hour of extra content split up between deleted scenes and some brisk featurettes. This combination makes the Looper Blu-Ray a solid first-run investment, and perfect for any sci-fi fan's collection.