'Looper' Is 'Wild' And 'Wears Its Crazy Lightly'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis star as the present and future versions of a skilled assassin in Rian Johnson's mind-bending thriller Looper. Not to be missed is Jeff Daniels, who gives an electric performance as Abe, a man from the future fed up with living in the past

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Back in 2005, writer-director Rian Johnson was the talk of Sundance with his debut feature, "Brick." Now he's the talk of Hollywood with his new sci-fi epic, "Looper." Film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: "Looper" is wild and crazy but it wears its crazy lightly, like it's no big deal. The year is 2044 and Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, is employed as a looper, a profession that takes some explaining.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LOOPER")

JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: (as Joe). Time travel has not yet been invented, but 30 years from now it will have been. I am one of many specialized assassins called loopers. So when criminal organizations in the future need someone gone, they zap him back to me and I eliminate the target from the future.

TURAN: One of the quirks of the looping profession is that at some point you will end up shooting the future version of yourself, a situation called closing your loop. If you don't pull the trigger, if you let your loop run, you will be in for a world of trouble - which is exactly what happens here.

Joe comes face-to-face with his future self, played by Bruce Willis. Though they are technically the same man, the difference in age means that Joe and his older self have different dreams, different goals for their lives. They do not get along.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LOOPER")

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Joe) So do you know what's going to happen? You done all this already as me?

BRUCE WILLIS: (as Joe) I don't want to talk about time travel, because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.

GORDON-LEVITT: (as Joe) We both know how this has to go down. I can't let you walk away from this diner alive.

TURAN: "Looper's" plot is way more complicated than you can imagine. It's all about uncertainty, and the delicious sense that we're in only partially chartered territory. There's also a surprising ruthlessness to the narrative, the sense of a story that has the nerve to play by its own rules.

Not to be missed is Jeff Daniels, who gives an electric performance as Abe, a man from the future fed up with living in the past. Abe casts a disparaging eye on Joe's style of dress and tells him, the movies you are dressing like are just copying other movies.

"Looper" doesn't feel like it's copying anything at all.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Film critic Kenneth Turan, he reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and for the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: This is NPR News.

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