The last time we saw Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he was serving his action movie apprenticeship with Batman as the maverick young policeman battling corruption in The Dark Knight Rises writes Carl Jones.
His reward is a bill-topping role in this dark, twisting sci-fi thriller boasting the sort of ingenious, creative plot that his former director Christopher Nolan would doubtless applaud.
He plays Joe, an assassin known as a ‘looper’ whose job is to gun down hooded targets that have been sent back in time by the mob, headed by sadistic Abe (Daniels).
Silver bars are strapped to the backs of each target – payment for the pull of a trigger – and once Joe has incinerated the lifeless body, he stashes his spoils in a hidden floor-space of his swanky apartment and lives the life of riley.
Like his fellow loopers, though, Joe knows his life expectancy is finite and that one fateful day he will have to ‘close the loop’ by being asked to gun down his future self.
Needless to say, it’s crucial that loopers do not allow sentiment to cloud their judgement at such times, in case their older incarnations dodge the bullet and run amok, altering the course of the future.
So, guess what? That’s exactly what ends up happening.
Joe hesitates from his bloody duties for a split second, and allows Future Joe (Willis) to escape.
The race between hunter and hunted then begins in earnest.
As a new present unfolds because of the unscheduled development, Future Joe tracks down the younger incarnation of a shadowy figure called The Rainmaker, who is plotting to exert terrifying influence in the year 2074.
Both Joes gravitate towards a remote farmhouse where fiercely protective mother Sara (Blunt) is raising her son Cid (Gagnon) far from prying eyes.
Writer-director Rian Johnson, who made a big splash with his ambitiously dark detective story Brick, is back on fine form with this ingeniously plotted thriller that exploits the gaping plot holes afforded by time travel. Looper demands constant vigilance from the audience to keep track of alternate, intersecting timelines.
It’s all meticulously planned and stylishly executed, realising Marty McFly’s worst nightmare from the Back To The Future series by allowing a hero to co-exist with his future self in the same timeframe. The ripple effect leads to a simple yet striking flourish: wounds inflicted on a young protagonist simultaneously manifest as scars on the older self.
Amidst all the plot mechanics, performances are somewhat overshadowed, though.
Gordon-Levitt’s usual intensity is muted while Willis plays effortlessly to his strengths as an action man. Blunt – continuing to cement her reputation as one of the best, and most versatile British film stars – impresses in her limited screen time as a mother prepared to lay her life on the line to protect her special little boy.
For more film reviews and news of local screenings, check out The Ticket in tonight's Shropshire Star