Riam Johnson’s riveting sci-fi/noir Looper combines time travel and future urban angst as it tells an intricately plotted tale weaving strands of organized crime, loyalty, telekinesis, mother love, and mortality.
Set in a bleak, crime-ridden 2044, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is Joe Simmons, a “looper,” or an assassin paid with silver bars to kill various individuals who have been sent back in time (from 2074, where time travel has been invented and quickly outlawed) because—quite frankly, getting rid of bodies in 2074 is not as easy as getting rid of them in 2044. Joe’s life seems a never-ending loop of killing, clubbing, sex and drugs, but life starts to get more complicated. His friend Seth (Paul Dano) blows a contract—on the older version of himself, sent back from the future to be killed (or as they say, closing the loop). As the audience discovers, that’s a deal-breaker in Looper-land, which produces dire consequences for Seth, a stern warning for Joe from his boss Abe (a quietly menacing Jeff Daniels)…and serves to foreshadow the subsequent “meet and beat” between younger Joe and Older Joe (Bruce Willis). Older Joe has got more on his mind than eluding Joe, as well as Abe’s henchmen (including a splendid Noah Segan as a very unstable Kid Blue); he wants to change the future by killing the one who, by 2074, will become the dangerous, dictatorial Rainmaker…
The talented writer/director Johnson gives the audience plenty to think about, especially around the mid-point when the action settles on Emily Blunt’s remote homestead, and the movie succeeds in getting plenty of mileage out of its improbable premise. Gordon-Levitt and Willis are in top form as the two ages of Joe. (There are those who would say they don’t really resemble each other—would they rather have the same actor play both parts-in unconvincing make-up?) They complement each other well as the younger, occasionally wistful killer who yearns to go to France, and the weathered, wiser, regretful old pro who has seen what’s coming Leavitt’s way…and would like to change it. Their encounterin a diner does much to clarify plot strands and highlight their finely honed similarities and differences in both performance and attitude. Both convey the wariness and despair borne of a life on the run, and when everything eventually hits the fan, Looper moves excitingly to a powerful conclusion that feels right. You won’t be disappointed.
One might have wished Clint Eastwood had ended his acting career with his powerful turn in the moving Gran Torino, but now we have the relatively minor, yet very endearing Trouble With the Curve. While Clint didn’t direct this (that chore is capably handled by associate Robert Lorenz), the Eastwood touches are evident in the slow, steady pace; the generosity to fellow actors; the concerns with friendship, professionalism, integrity and mortality; and the contrast between old-world ways and new-fangled methodology. Hence the tension between Eastwood’s aging, observant, prickly scout and the younger folks who rely on technology to appraise young talent (Et tu, Moneyball). Amy Adams plays Eastwood’s daughter, an ambitious lawyer who is prevailed upon by family friend John Goodman (a warm performance) to accompany dad on his latest—and possibly final—scouting trip to observe a seeming future phenomenon. The tensions between father and daughter over perceived sins of the past threaten to derail their growing mutual respect; meanwhile a younger scout (Justin Timberlake) swoops in to give career-bound Adams a taste of things she’s been missing.
Trouble with the Curve excels in depicting the small-town atmosphere, the camaraderie among scouts for whom baseball is a way of life. Though it may be a trifle one-sided and predictable in terms of the outcome of Eastwood’s travails (will he prove he still has the knack for picking talent; will he reconcile with his daughter), the journey is engaging and quite enjoyable. Eastwood expertly depicts the scout as a gruff, uncompromising, ultimately compassionate would-be loner, while Timberlake proves to be a likable presence as a former phenom whose hopes of making it in the broadcast booth hinge on his trip to the boondocks. The secret weapon in the mix, however, is Amy Adams, who effortlessly portrays a career-driven woman whose real passion lies far from the law library. She has a nice chemistry with Timberlake and matches Eastwood both in single-minded strength and undercurrents of tenderness. While it doesn’t exactly hit a homerun, Trouble With the Curve is a pretty solid hit.