Pleasantly surprising

Two years ago, “Inception” hit movie theaters across the globe and left moviegoers in a vegetative state. The complex story of director Christopher Nolan’s brainchild instantly garnered discussion and confusion from those who had the privilege of seeing it in theaters. This year, the lesser known director Rian Johnson countered with a psychological thriller of his own: “Looper.”

“Looper” is the story that follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who work as a looper. A looper is an assassin that is hired to kill future fugitives that are sent back in time. When Joe is preparing for a routine kill, the man that materializes in front of him is none other than his future self, played by Bruce Willis. His future self proceeds to successfully escape, a big no-no when it comes to the looping business. However, future Joe wasn’t looking to survive just because. Instead, he plans on searching for one of three kids that could potentially be the Rainmaker, the man who killed Joe’s future wife and is closing all loops.

I know, that’s about as hard to digest as a beefy five-layer burrito from Taco Bell, but it’s not that bad. Unlike “Inception,” which “Looper” will likely be compared to by many (including yours truly), this movie was much more clear and concise when it comes to explaining what is happening on screen. In “Inception,” Nolan left you with the dirty job of putting together the puzzle pieces. In “Looper,” while there are some things left up to your interpretation, Johnson presents the material in a very simple, yet effective, way.

As for the futuristic setting, it’s really anything but that. Generally when I watch a movie based in the distant future, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of changes in science and technology. The hoverboards and laser guns are just a little too ridiculous and cliche. “Looper” makes you believe Joe’s life isn’t all that different from your’s, almost as if you live in the same time period as him. After all, it’s easier to connect with the pick-up truck driving Joe as opposed to the hoverboard riding Marty McFly.

Still, while these are two great strengths of the film, none are greater than the tension between present Joe and future Joe. When the two first stared at each other – present Joe’s gun pointing directly at his future self – I knew this was something special. The two are at constant odds with each other, leaving not only yourself, but also both Joe’s, waiting for what could happen next. This instant tension paves way to certain memorable scenes, specifically the altercation between the Joe’s over steak and eggs at a dusty old diner in Kansas. This truly is the mother of all man versus self conflicts.

Yet, within its greatest strengths is perhaps “Looper’s” downfall. Within all this tension and the intense action, the movie just suddenly comes to a screeching halt. The ending comes out of left field and leaves you hungry for more. The conclusion of the film seemed rushed, though this could have been a circumstance of being so emerged in a movie.

Nonetheless, “Looper” epitomizes the term pleasant surprise. I went into the theater expecting a mindless action film, like most of Willis’ movies, with a one dimensional plot. What I got, however, was a movie akin to, get ready for it, “Inception.” But this time I left the theater with more answers than questions.