In 2044, 25-year-old Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works for a crime syndicate in 2074 Kansas City as a special assassin, called a Looper. Since tracking systems in the future mean it is impossible to dispose of a body, the Syndicate’s enemies are sent back in Time to be killed. At the behest of a present-time crime-boss named Abe (Jeff Daniels), Loopers kill and dispose of victims with concealed faces as they arrive, paid by silver bars attached to the bodies. To hide their activities, Loopers who live until 2074 are sent back to be killed by their younger selves, closing the loop, as it were. They are sent with gold bars.
Joe’s friend Seth (Paul Dano) confesses that he failed to kill his future self. Old Seth has escaped, revealing that a man from the future called the Rainmaker will dispose of all the major bosses and close all the loops. Joe hides Seth in his apartment’s floor safe, but Abe threatens to confiscate half of Joe’s Silver, so he rats out Seth. Abe’s goons capture Seth, cut an address into his arm, and begin cutting off body parts. In the future, Old Seth’s parts begin to disappear. He goes to the address on his arm and is killed by Kid Blue (Noah Segan).
When Joe’s next target arrives, it’s his older self (Bruce Willis), who escapes before Joe can kill him. Returning to his apartment, he falls afoul of Kid Blue, tumbles off a fire escape, and is knocked unconscious. In another timeline, however, Joe does kill his other self and moves to Shanghai. He marries and cures his addiction. Seven years later, his wife is killed and he is sent to be killed by his younger self. He sends himself back to 2044, evades Joe and escapes, altering his history.
Old Joe remembers events in Young Joe’s life and meets his younger self in a diner. He wants to change history again by saving his wife and killing the Rainmaker as a child. He finds his home on a map. Kid Blue and the goons appear and a gunfight takes place. Both Joes escape. Joe finds the farm where Sara (Emily Blunt) lives with her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon). Sara recognizes the number on the map and deduces that Old Joe is going to kill all the children born that day in that hospital because one of them will grow up to be the Rainmaker.
Jesse (Garret Dillahunt), a hired killer, comes to the farm but Joe and Cid hide. That night, Sara and Joe have sex, and Sara reveals that she has telekinetic powers, but Cid’s is stronger. In the morning, Jesse is holding Sara at gunpoint, but Cid kills Jesse with telekinesis. Joe realizes that Cid is the one who is going to be the Rainmaker. Kid Blue captures Old Joe and takes him to Abe. Old Joe breaks free, kills Abe and his henchmen, and goes to Sara’s farm, followed by Kid Blue. Young Joe kills Kid Blue, and Old Joe goes after Sara and Cid. Sara sends Cid into a cane field and blocks Old Joe’s line of fire with her body. Young Joe realizes that if Old Joe kills Sara, Cid will become the twisted Rainmaker, so he shoots himself, erasing Old Joe’s existence.
The time-travel crime-story was written and directed by Rian Johnson and produced by Ram Bergman and James D. Stern. It was the opening film in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. It received critical acclaim and was a box-office success. The prosthetics that made Gordon-Levitt look like Bruce Willis were created by makeup artist Kazhuhiro Tsuji. The music was by Nathan Johnson, the director’s cousin.
Garret Dillahunt, who played the stone-cold killer Jesse, was also the Terminator Cromartie in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Originally, Joe was supposed to move to Paris, which is why he was studying French, but the production couldn’t afford it. But the Chinese film distributor offered to pay their way to Shanghai and they jumped at the chance. Joe was shown having trouble with French, but Gordon-Levitt is actually fluent in that language. Rian Johnson also directed The Last Jedi. One reviewer said Looper was like Quentin Tarantino meets Philip K. Dick. Another said it has the full Wizard of Oz: A brain, courage, and heart. I think that’s right. The brain is in the brilliant time-travel plotting, the courage is in the directing, and the heart is in the top-notch actors.