** SPOILERS **
"We're not gonna talk about goddamned time travel!"
Here we are, face to face, my future self and me. Looper is writer-director Rian Johnson's twisty, mind-bending, time travel action yarn starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Bruce Willis and Bruce Willis as himself, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt as his younger self. Got it? Gordon-Levitt's face is buried under prosthetic makeup for the entire movie so that he resembles a young Bruce Willis with hair. The effect is unusual at first but in certain angles, and the way Gordon-Levitt inhabits Willis' mannerisms, the effect is oddly convincing.
The year is 2044 A.D. and time travel has been invented, and was instantly made illegal. 30 years even further in the future, time travel is controlled by criminals who send other criminals back in time to be executed by "loopers", of which Gordon-Levitt is one, wielding a blunderbuss as his primary weapon. Loopers kind of have a shit deal: they make a lot of silver bars as payment but their ultimate reward for a job well done is to have 30 years to live as they please until they "close the loop", meaning they get sent back in time to be executed by their younger selves. For which they get paid in gold. It's confusing, but as Bruce Willis barks at Gordon-Levitt when they meet in a diner: "We're not gonna talk about goddamned time travel! We'll end up sitting here drawing diagrams." No shit. These pre-destination paradoxes are headache-inducing.
Suffice to say, in the timeline that occurs in the movie, Gordon-Levitt executes Willis and goes on to live his 30 years in Shanghai, China (suggested by his boss Jeff Daniels, despite Gordon-Levitt studying French for his plans to retire in France). Aged into the older Bruce Willis, he falls in love with a Chinese woman and finally has a happy life, until he's attacked by someone called The Rainmaker, his wife is killed, and Willis is sent back in time to be killed by Gordon-Levitt. Only Willis knew this was coming and totally outsmarted/sucker punched Gordon-Levitt. So now they're both in the same time, both hunted by other Loopers and "gat-men" assassins, and they don't get along. At all. One of the keen things about Looper is despite being the same person 30 years apart, neither Willis nor Gordon-Levitt can stand each other.
Willis decides to go on a Terminator-like crusade to kill the three young children who are most likely to become The Rainmaker. One is the child of Gordon-Levitt's favorite prostitute Piper Perabo. But it turns out the future Rainmaker is the young son of Emily Blunt, the owner of a Kansas farmhouse where Gordon-Levitt hides out. No surprise the creepy son of Blunt is the future Rainmaker, but it is surprising he's an incredibly powerful telekinetic who can make human bodies go squish like Jean Grey when she becomes Dark Phoenix. All timelines converge at this farm as Willis comes to kill the Rainmaker and Gordon-Willis tries to protect the boy from his future self.
Somewhat of a head-scratcher at times, Looper is startlingly effective and entertaining as a bizarre sci-fi yarn and a guns-blazing action movie. Willis in particular relishes getting to play the kind of ruthless killing machine that rivals his 1980s action buddies Stallone and Schwarzenegger. The coolest thing about Looper for me was never knowing exactly what to expect next. It's not often I'm unable to see the patterns and find myself consistently surprised throughout a movie. Although my future self wasn't at all surprised.