Paradoxes are the bread and butter of the time-travel scenario. You know the kind: Marty McFly accidentally got his mom hot for him instead of Crispin Glover and is now slowly vanishing from family photos. Effect cuts in front of cause, basically, whereupon all hell breaks loose. Trying to wrap your brain around that sort of logical contradiction can be enormous, disorienting fun, and there's plenty of mental stimulation to be found in Looper, the third film written and directed by Rian Johnson. (Full disclosure: Johnson's become a friend over the past few years, though I was a fan of his earlier films, Brick and The Brothers Bloom, before we met.) But Looper also tackles another, arguably even headier paradox — one that we all experience as we proceed on our relentlessly linear paths through time. Namely, how can one grow older and wiser, yet also learn nothing?
Frankly, wiser is the only possible direction for the film's protagonist, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), though it's uncertain at first whether he'll have the chance to get much older. In 2044, Joe works as a "looper," killing bound victims who've been sent back in time from an even more distant future (2074) in which time travel exists but has been outlawed, used only by the mob for untraceable corpse disposal. As Joe himself admits, it's not a job that attracts forward-thinking people, since odds are good that you'll eventually be sent your future self to murder, thereby "closing the loop."
Sure enough, one day Joe finds himself aiming his blunderbuss at his own middle-aged mug, in the form of Bruce Willis. Older Joe escapes, intent on finding and killing a young boy who'll grow up to become a terror of the underworld known as the Rainmaker. Meanwhile, Joe takes refuge on a farm where a flinty single mom (Emily Blunt) is raising a possible Rainmaker candidate (Pierce Gagnon), waiting for the chance to annihilate his destiny.
Read the whole story here, and watch the trailer after the jump.