Would you sacrifice the future to enjoy the present?  Conversely, how far would you go to protect the future?  These are some of the questions raised in Looper, a very original science fiction thriller that delves deeply into time travel -- and personal choices.

"Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been."  So says Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an assassin known as a Looper in the year 2042.  We're told that in 2072 time travel was invented and almost immediately outlawed, so it's only used by organized crime.  Since people are almost impossible to make vanish in the future, the mob sends its victims back to 2042 (hands bound, with a hood over their face), where a waiting Looper blasts them with a blunderbuss and collects a reward of silver bars tied to the victim's back.  However, there's a price: Since the mob wants to sever all ties with time travel, if a Looper lives to 2072 their 2042 version will kill their future self ("closing the loop"), enjoying a reward of gold and living it up until their inevitable self-termination.  Future versions don't get far (as injuries to the present version carry through to the future self), and Abe (Jeff Daniels) is a mob rep from the future who runs the 2042 Loopers to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Of course, something goes very wrong: The future version of Joe (Bruce Willis) is sent back, but he escapes and is determined to change the future.  "Old Joe" wants to restore the life he had and then lost, while "Young Joe" is determined to kill his future self to get back in Abe's good graces and return to a life of hedonism and self-destruction.  There are also flying vehicles, low-level telekinetics, farmer Sara (Emily Blunt) and her creepy kid Cid (Pierce Gagnon), and a mysterious future mob boss called the Rainmaker who single-handedly took over five cities.

Looper is an intriguing look at the potential of time travel -- and its potential abuses.  While I don't know why the mob wouldn't use time travel to make a fortune (from the stock market, betting on sports, etc.), the setup allows for a class of people who sell out their futures to party in the present.  Gordon-Levitt and Willis are great as two sides of the same coin: the young kid who wants to enjoy himself no matter what, and the older one willing to commit a horrible plan to fix the future.  There are times Looper falls into action movie cliches (like people dodging bullets), but this movie is exciting, thoughtful, and entertaining.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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