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Looper 

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★★★★★

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels. Written by Rian Johnson. Directed by Rian Johnson. Produced by Ram Bergman, Christopher C. Chen, Julie Goldstein, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Douglas Hansen, Dan Mintz, Eleanor Nett, David Pomier, Peter Schlessel, Lucas Smith and James Stern.

What could have been a thrilling sci-fi adventure is transformed by director Rian Johnson into a heart-wrenching drama that you'll genuinely be moved by. What distinguishes Looper from something like Terminator or Inception films is its ability to use the contrived world it's set in to further drive a substantial story, rather than dictate it. Set in 2044, time travel is a reality, but is only used illegally by criminals who wish to tie up their lose ends without traces of bodies or evidence, which is what loopers are for – they're hired to kill men from 30 years in the future who've been sent back to them to die under the pretenses that they'll one day kill their own future selves in order to 'close the loop'. Joe (Levitt) is a drug-addicted looper with essentially nothing going for him but his job and his silver – he has no family, friends or love interest and lives with the loyalty and morality of a rat. He's faced with some tough decisions when his future self (Willis) arrives with another agenda, leaving him in harm's way and thrusting him into a difficult situation, involving single mother and farmer, Sara (Blunt) and her son. What happens takes the movie in an entirely new direction and shatters any assumptions we have upon entering the theatre.

Looper is about love, sacrifice and courage – and Levitt is a near flawless choice of a leading man for a movie like this. His performance is nuanced enough for us to buy that there are real emotions underneath his stoic exterior and animated enough to entertain and build momentum. And I know what you're thinking: there's no way this kid can be a convincing Willis, but surprisingly enough, despite the odd prosthetics, we believe they're the same person when they finally meet and forget our initial doubts when they start bickering about life experiences and choices much like a father and son with identical mannerisms and speech patterns. And Blunt offers wonderful balance and depth as the calloused single mother whose dark past continues to haunt her – at one point, she nurses Joe back to health only to injure him later to intimidate him. It isn't long before you realize that this movie is hardly about the concept and more about the dynamic characters and the consequences of the choices they make.

Johnson constructs a detailed and dark world, but never overdoes it – everything feels entirely within our grasp with the exception of a telekinetic mutation that's effected a fraction of the population. This futuristic thriller refuses to be pigeon-holed and manages to tastefully create what could've been a gimmicky premise, emotionally drawing in its audience and developing a clear theme instead of just wowing with 'cool' effects and thought-provoking ideas. Looper will fascinate and meet the expectations of an audience hungry for action and suspense with violence and extended chase scenes, and pleasantly surprise an audience in search of something with more substance. —Rebecca Hillary

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