Reviews

Looper

5

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis go to the future and back again...

Miller’s Crossing. The Royal Tenenbaums. Magnolia. Three Kings. All films by modern American directors who already showed considerable early promise with their first two movies, only to hit the ball right out the park with number three.

Rian Johnson does just that with Looper, an extraordinary time-travel tale that’s as intricately and elegantly constructed as the pocket watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s hitman Joe keeps close by. Much like Johnson’s 2005 debut, the Gordon-Levitt-starring high-school noir Brick, Looper comes complete with its own lexicon, starting with the title.

A ‘looper’ is a specialised assassin. His job – not a particularly difficult one, it must be said – is to bump off mob targets that arrive hogtied, hooded and helpless, then dispose of their corpses. The twist is that those marked for death are being sent back from 30 years in the future – 2074 to be precise – when time travel has finally been invented.

Practised so the Mafia can hide their dirty laundry in the past, the only rule is “never let your target escape” – even if that target happens to be your future self. This is called “closing the loop”. When the Mafia think it’s time to retire their assassin, they send his future self back to be shot by his 2044 self.

Crack to the future

The situation only gets stickier when future Joe (Bruce Willis) arrives in the past with his own agenda - a Shanghai surprise that will throw everyone for a loop. We could tell you more, but then we’d have to kill you.

It has something to do with The Rainmaker, a mysterious Keyser Soze-like figure who has been closing all the loops in 2074, but we’ve already said too much…

Undeniably, Looper is conceptually big, bold and brave enough to stand alongside The Terminator, Back To The Future and Willis’ own 12 Monkeys. “This time-travel crap fries your brain like an egg,” says Jeff Daniels’ Mafia mentor Abe.

Yet Johnson pulls together a plot that plays fair with the genre’s internal logic. It’s a world where carving a message in your arm will leave a scar for your future self to read, or where further physical trauma can literally leave you cracking up.

Crucially, for all its tick-tock plotting, there’s an emotional story at Looper’s core, bringing gravitas to its grand design. Themes of nature vs. nurture, family, redemption and undying love circle around these morally ambiguous characters - issues that come sharply into focus with the arrival of Sara (Emily Blunt), a shotgun-wielding single mother who allows Joe to take refuge on her farm.

Leaving behind the self-conscious dialogue of 2005’s Brick and the overcooked quirk of his 2008 follow-up The Brothers Bloom, Johnson beautifully constructs a world in which hope and possibility are on offer (even if it’s in the past).

Prosthetically pleasing

One of the movie’s real high points is its vision of tomorrow’s world. Looper’s future is not so different that it seems alien to us; its rendering is as subtle as the prosthetics that pad out Levitt’s face: far-away backdrops, skyline shots, a floating vehicle here and there…

Yes, you can see the Blade Runner influence in Ed Verreaux’s production design, but never to the point of slavish homage. Just the occasional jarring oddity - some characters can float coins with a mysterious telekinetic power - puts Johnson’s universe askew from ours.

It doesn’t want for action, either. Never mind the heavy artillery Willis flaunts in The Expendables 2; when he finally picks up some hardware in Looper, it’s one of the most thrilling face-offs since he tore up the Nakatomi Plaza.

If there’s a flaw, aside from certain plot-points that defy Johnson’s own logic, it’s that the director lets the pace dip a little too much prior to this, in the farmhouse scenes. Although the latter interlude does allow Blunt to flourish in one of her best dramatic roles since My Summer Of Love.

Gordon-Levitt, coming off the back of The Dark Knight Rises and 50/50, caps a terrific 12 months with a performance brimful of maturity.

Likewise, Willis gives us Bruce without the smirk, showing the same wistful sadness he deployed in the obviously influential 12 Monkeys.

As for the bravura flash-forward, in which we see the transition from Gordon-Levitt to Willis, it’s the moment you realise Johnson’s hit a home run.

Verdict:

The best sci-fi movie since Moon. The best time-travel yarn since 12 Monkeys. And one of the best films of 2012. You’ll immediately want to see it again.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • thedanieljson

      Sep 6th 2012, 15:20

      WOAH. I hope this is a five-star review to trust. Brick is one of my favourite films, so I've been dead excited for this.

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    • aleks989

      Sep 6th 2012, 15:31

      I wasn't expecting nothing less then 5 stars for this masterpiece. Can't wait to see it !!!

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    • smellyhands

      Sep 6th 2012, 18:21

      Great stuff. Should be a great film. He hasnt been in anything decent since Sin City. My opinion of course.

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    • googlemonkey

      Sep 6th 2012, 21:15

      Looking forward to Looper. Joseph Gordon-levitt is also really good in Premium Rush.

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    • Hadouken76

      Sep 6th 2012, 22:07

      Best SciFi of the year!

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    • omgitsgray

      Sep 7th 2012, 13:40

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

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    • marc96

      Sep 7th 2012, 18:55

      wow i have to say im surprised, i was excited to see this film & love Brick but with a plot like this it could easily fall apart and was expecting 3 star reviews, pleasantly surprised :)

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    • luke100

      Sep 14th 2012, 20:11

      If you masturbate between 2 mirrors, is that considered looping?

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    • jamieneish

      Sep 19th 2012, 14:10

      Great review. Here's mine - http://emptyscreens.com/2012/09/18/review-looper-2012/

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    • eddieryan

      Sep 24th 2012, 22:49

      I have just got in from a free screening & I'm glad I didn't have to pay to watch that as I was bored s**tless from about an hour in. I didn't care about any of the characters (& I like all the actors and they all gave good performances, especially the delightful Ms Blunt & her flawless American accent) & I will admit that the kid is a great little actor (not a spoiler) and as for the ending - it took 2 hours to do what I said they should have done from the minute Bruce Willis appeared. As for the JGL make-up job - Why?? It didn't make him look like a young Bruce Willis (I remember Moonlighting), it just made him look like a weird Joseph Gordon Levitt. I'm really disappointed as I've been looking forward to it for absolutely ages, but I guess I'm not a Rian Johnson fan as I felt the same about Brick (which I actually did give up on before an hour). Won't be giving him a third chance... Just for balance in this post, I would add that my wife loved it, so there you go. The last film to divide us this much was Black Swan (but this is marginally less boring).

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    • kebabcake

      Sep 25th 2012, 17:03

      Looking forward to this!

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    • theonetruewill

      Sep 25th 2012, 19:51

      I saw this last night and really enjoyed it. It was a blockbuster with a indy feel. Violent without being ridiculously over the top. JGL has been in some of my favourite films of the year and I'm looking forward to his directorial debut.

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    • MattMorris

      Sep 28th 2012, 17:43

      Agree with Eddie Ryan. Vastly overrated.

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    • tonypotts

      Sep 28th 2012, 21:37

      2

      Seen this movie last Friday at Cineworld in Manchester(Cineworld Card Holder, Don't hate) and it wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be... They have an amazing story and the ideas in this movie are insanely good but they don't use those ideas properly, they make nothing of them which was a massive let down... The movie has a very bad ending when it could of had a better ending, not going to go too much into detail because I don't want to ruin the movie but in my opinion, this movie is bad. I'll rate it 2.5/5. Still worth watching but don't expect the ending you're hoping for.

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    • FuriousStyles

      Sep 29th 2012, 10:06

      Sorry to rain on people's parade but in my humble opinion Looper disappoints. I think it had great promise, the actors gave competent performances but it was too easy to predict and, if you're a thinker who likes to be challenged, there were some obvious plot holes. Straight up I felt cheated!............ Am I being too harsh?

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    • jackstarr

      Sep 29th 2012, 19:46

      5

      Ha, they sure got this one right... ultra-cool, retro-stylised and super-violent, Looper hits all the right notes... it's clever but far from pretentious, and has a lot of heart. One of the best films of the year... the only thing that disappointed me was that it ended, and I wanted it to go on forever, I wanted to know more...

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    • portland6

      Sep 30th 2012, 16:29

      2

      Just seen it and, like others here, was sorely disappointed. It was a mish mash of bits from other films - Terminator, Scanners, Witness - and full of obvious twists and holes in logic. The worst of these was that time travel and TK just seemed to exist because otherwise the story didn't work, which Bruce Willis virtually says in the film!

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    • ChrisWootton

      Oct 2nd 2012, 10:11

      3

      Have to agree with the above. I really enjoyed the first third of the movie, there were some interesting ideas and was quite disturbing in places but then.. nothing happens.. I was the same with the resolution as well.. thought about it as soon as it started. Getting a bit sick of all the hype now, I just can't understand how this is being seen as a 5 star classic.

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    • thedanieljson

      Oct 2nd 2012, 23:04

      5

      (small spoilers) Original, mindblowing, exciting, witty... This is one of the greatest sci-fi's to have come out in ages. I thought the mid-part, though lagging slightly in terms of events, brought more feeling to the characters, more depth. The mother (sort of) and child relationship was unnerving and fascinating, whilst the scene with Jessie in the house was unbelievably tense, whilst also being quite hilarious, a nice mood red-herring before the blood soaked finale... I loved every moment.

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    • passion4movies

      Oct 4th 2012, 18:40

      4

      I did enjoy this movie and knowing the budget was low (i think it was 30 mil), I was really impressed. Trouble is, everyone's raving like its the best movie ever. A quote even stating "This decades matrix" I found the movie kind of dried up during the middle then picked back up towards the end. Brilliant performances all round though, especially from JGL. 4 Stars from me.

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    • GFoley83

      Oct 5th 2012, 13:33

      Went with my bro (who's a SciFi fan) and we were both hugely disappointed. All the awesome reviews had my hopes high for this one but I failed to see why. Couple of good scenes yeah, but otherwise it was pretty c**p.

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    • gmhutchins

      Oct 5th 2012, 16:25

      4

      Bruce Willis, time travelling assassins, bird from Coyote Ugly in her underpants. What's not to love? http://onepointtwenty1gigawatts.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/looper-review.html

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    • Jareth64

      Oct 13th 2012, 14:29

      4

      I enjoyed this a lot. Exactly what sci-fi should be; good fun and quite scary and disturbing in places (Ridley Scott take note). There's a mid-film lull, and some other silly time/spacing issues, but there's no reason why you can't enjoy this for what it is; popcorn munching fun. It's not Inception, but it's fifty times better than Prometheus. But, hey, that's not hard to achieve!

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    • chrisdew

      Oct 19th 2012, 6:16

      3

      Ok...but not worth 4 or 5 stars....I just want to make a point about this movie - what is the point of a Looper ? It explains this in the movie as in the future it is impossible to remove a body due to tagging...etc...so why they cannot burn the bodies in the future like in the past ? So if you take a person they then disappear due to time travel they would surely still appear on the scanners of the future but just as 30 year old burnt remains....apart from this agree with one the of other reviewers that it is over 30 mins too long. Also dont accept the ending as soon as that kids stubs his toe or gets to his teenage years and disagrees with his "mum" he will turn bad...

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    • chrisdew

      Oct 19th 2012, 6:23

      3

      Also second plot hole...Jessie has to go cold turkey at the farm house...older Jessie is trying to kill the Rainmaker due to the woman who "saves" him...if young Jessie is no longer a junkie does that not change the events of the next 30 years and probably meaning he does not meet this woman (due to a gang related fight)...

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    • Jareth64

      Oct 19th 2012, 11:37

      4

      @chrisdew - There is such a thing as "lapsing" when you're addicted to something. Just because you go cold turkey once it doesn't mean, as an addict, you spend the rest of your life clean. Anyway, I enjoyed the film a lot. Sure the concept doesn't work. At all. But the film is aware of this and doesn't bother to be all profound about things. It just gets on with the action.

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    • royceearnestjr

      Oct 19th 2012, 12:41

      4

      It's called science FICTION for a reason, people. Lighten up,

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    • macie47

      Oct 27th 2012, 7:02

      I love the movie! 5 stars for that. You did great, JGL and Johnson. :)

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    • macie47

      Oct 27th 2012, 7:02

      5

      I love the movie! 5 stars for that. You did great, JGL and Johnson. :)

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    • samtebow

      Oct 28th 2012, 18:11

      as Ray said I didnt know that some people are able to make $7575 in one month on the internet. did you look at this link...bit.ly\X24LHP

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    • jlakesgardner

      Nov 2nd 2012, 8:14

      Is shooting yourself really the answer? I think it would have been easier to transfer your blunderbuss to your left hand and shoot you right fingers off...

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    • haykgevorgyan

      Nov 9th 2012, 9:19

      5

      best bond

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    • clemzzz

      Nov 14th 2012, 11:34

      3

      I have to switch off when I watch time travel films , otherwise I could never enjoy them. Anyone with a basic knowledge of special relativity / philosophy etc. could pull this apart in seconds. So I was pleased to enjoy a good thriller with an interesting idea that allowed me to switch off. My main concerns were a plagiarism of an X-Men idea ( future mutants with psychic powers ) and a silly over the top scene in a field. Over-all enjoyable enough , but i wouldn't bother to see it again or get the DVD

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    • jimmymackey

      Feb 6th 2013, 15:08

      I think the emotional story at Looper’s core really looks at how morality is relative, those who are immoral by another’s standards don’t know it after they have lived that way for so long, and those lines are blurry unless someone holds us accountable. The commentary is told by what is NOT said, until the end, when it is all summed up. I enjoyed Looper, but mostly because I was relaxing in my home with my wife on a date night. We like to go to the movies, but when I had a hard day working at DISH, I want to snuggle up with my honey and watch a movie with my DISH Blockbuster @Home service. Since we know when our date night will be, we order the movie on our queue ahead of time and it is ready for us to watch in full HD on Blu-ray. I don’t have to drive to the video store, and I get the latest new releases.

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