Looper

It’s a great feeling for a movie fan when a highly anticipated movie exceeds your expectations.

Rian Johnson’s “Looper” was one of the most eagerly awaited films of 2012. The combination of Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, and the high concept cross-stitching of hit men and time travel held a potential that people couldn’t help but build hope for.

I’m happy to report that “Looper” delivers on its promise in a big way. It’s a sci-fi thriller with a soul. Clever, intense and original, “Looper” is easily one of the best movies of 2012 so far.

In the not so distant future, time travel is invented, but quickly made illegal. Criminals continue to use it, however, in order to expedite hits. Disposing of a body by sending it back in time is the most foolproof way they have of executing someone and not being caught. A mob representative (Jeff Daniels) has traveled back in time, and using his knowledge of the future, has taken control of the city. He organizes a team of assassins known as Loopers, who await for targets at designated areas and specific times, shoot the victims when they materialize, collect their pay (in silver, strapped to the victim), and dispose of the bodies.

They’re called Loopers, however, because when they sign on for the job, they agree to “close their loop”. When 30 years pass, and time travel is eventually invented, the Loopers themselves will be sent back in time, to be terminated by their past selves, in order to protect the secrets of the mob. Thus, the job comes with a lifespan. Loopers live high on the hog now. Plenty of money for the high life… drugs, escorts, cars, motorcycles… but they each know that eventually, they’ll have to shoot a victim that will turn out to be themselves.   

A Looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) hesitates for a second when his time to close his loop comes. When his older self (Bruce Willis) arrives, everything is off a little bit. He arrives slightly late, his face is unshrouded, his hands are untied… all of these factors add up to a moment of hesitation. And that’s all the time his future self needs to make his escape. Eventually the two meet again (younger Joe is hunted now for his failure to close his loop), and its revealed that the reason older Joe was able to show up unbound was that he actually effected his escape in the future… and then willingly sent himself back into the past anyways, in order to change the outcome of the future.

It’s heady stuff, and “Looper” does a great job of exploiting the narrative potential of time travel, without getting bogged down by over-thinking the complications. It’s simplified, but not dumbed down, and what’s left is the cool, trippy aspect of it all. It makes for a great story. This is a great script. Johnson (who wrote as well as directed) created a wonderful, complicated tale that features a memorable central character (older and younger Joe) and tons of sci-fi trimmings. The weight of regret that motivates Willis’ Joe, plus the slow awakening of conscience Grodon-Levitt’s Joe experiences, gives the movie an enriching emotional heft. Add in a dash of style with the directing, such a spinning the frame, an occasional lens flare here and there, a touch of slo-mo, and you have a recipe for a seriously awesome movie experience.

There is a third act element that has gone entirely unmentioned in the marketing, so I wont be spoiling it here. Not that it’s a “twist” or anything, but it is an “Acceptance check point”… a point in the movie where your sci-fi tolerance will be tested. It has to do with the phase of the movie where Emily Blunt’s character enters into the movie. I don’t mean to tease it, but I imagine those people who have seen the movie will be wondering what I thought of it, since it is a bit of a change of direction. I fully accepted it, however. By that point, I had fully bought in to the characters, the world, and the story.

“Looper” is a rare breed of movie. Intelligent, emotional, and original. It features two huge stars playing the same character, but different roles. At times, you wont be sure which to root for as the two cross interests. But in the end, the audience is the winner. “Looper” will keep your rapt attention from its intriguing set up to its mind-blowing conclusion.

A+

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69 thoughts on “Looper

    • It’s not without certain chronal inconsistencies, Chris, I have to admit it. But its so cool you’ll gloss right over them. They do a good job of boiling it down to fit the narrative and then bypassing any further complications. They work it out. :)

  1. “in the end, the audience is the winner”.
    I’m hooked already Fogster. Great review man and finally (from what I’ve heard so far) we have a film this year thats living up to expectations.

  2. The Brothers Bloom was a favorite, but a bust at the box office. That may be why it’s been a dry spell at the movies for Rian. The only problem I have with the movie’s concept is breaking the basic Sci-Fi convention, that no being on two different planes can exist at the same time and place. I know it’s like the rules concerning vampires, not exactly set in stone, but it was good enough for the likes of Bradbury, Dick, and Asimov. The last Star Trek movie was an offender when a young Spock met his aged self for a tete a tete. That being said, “Bloom” was so good, I have to give “Looper” a chance.

    • The only movie that I can specifically think of that conforms to (or tries to conform to, I suppose) that particular space-time idea is Timecop. Are there others? I love getting worked up over great movies not following the rules of their own mythology.

    • In also a fan of Brothers Bloom. It had it’s faults and had one ending too many but Rian was slowly learning his craft at this point. It may have been a step down from Brick but ambitious nonetheless. I’ll make a prediction (as im sure many have made already) that Rian Johnson is on a par with Christopher Nolan and will reap the same benefits. I’ve not even seen Looper but I think this I just the beginning from an excellent new talent.

      • As I was leaving, I found myself hoping that the Johnson/Gordon-Levitt combo becomes one of those famous actor/director team ups that cranks out like a dozen great movies together. I think it can be done. Theyve got two so far!

        I love Brick and Bloom both. Johnson’s three for three in a big way.

    • I don’t think that’s a “convention”, really. What major works use it? Timecop, as mentioned, but is there anything else at all, as far as movies go? I can’t recall it coming up in other movies or novels. Granted, I haven’t read the complete works of Bradbury, Dick, and Asimov, but I’ve read a lot of time-travel fiction by other authors and haven’t come across it more than about one time in a hundred. I don’t think it’s all that common.

      Besides, it’s a poor rule. If two people meet each other, they’re not in the same time and same place. Even if they shake hands, they’re separated by a few subatomic particles’ worth of space. Sure, time travelers can’t occupy the same time and place… but neither can anybody else. That’s not a rule of time travel, that’s a rule of physical matter. Interpreting it to the point where there has to be an arbitrary physical distance between selves just doesn’t make any sense.

      • Wow. This really opened up a can of worms didn’t it. Not two people, one person exactly the same only separated by time. Coming together breaks the time plane and time collapses or so the Sci-Fi geeks and gods have declared. Can’t think offhand of other flix but there are, only older. Plenty of TV series though, including “Continuum”, have used this basic premise! Rules, especially movie ones, are made to be broken.

      • LOL. The rampant nerd-dom on display here is staggering.

        See what time travel movies do to people?

        I’ll cede you this, Ray. I’ve heard the aforementioned fictional “rule” before, so you’re not making it up. How prevalent it is though, is the key. Certainly, its a reach to compare it to the “Vampire rules”. Not on par… the “Vampire rules” were in thousands of works of fiction prior to “Twilight” crapping all over them.

        Methinks the no two people in the same place in time is not as well established, to say the least.

  3. Time travel films are tricky. This one says that 1 person can be in two places at the same time and that one can change the past. But this is nit picky because the script is highly intelligent and just plain fun. I agree on everything you’ve said. Great casting and the subtle make-up for Joseph should get an Oscar nod. Can’t wait for this one to come out in BD. (I loved what happened to Paul Dano’s character)

    • LOL. Are you and Chris both haters? He hates that guy.

      Meanwhile, yeah, time travel IS tricky, and there was a moment during the diner scene where Bruce Willis was like I dont want to talk about time travel, where I thought they were going to sidestep it all. You know, chicken out. But thankfully they didnt. Obviously they’re not going to be to explain every detail, so theres going to be a gap here or there. But all in all, completely solid. I loved it.

      • Not a Dano hater for all his films, just the one Chris hated. (There Will be Blood) Haven’t seen “Ruby Sparks”, but I liked him in “Little Miss Sunshine”.

    • Yeah, she has talent thats above the roles she’s been getting lately, thats for sure. Hey, at least she gets work, you know?

      This is by no means one of her better roles, in fact, her contribution here is… ancillary, really. But the movie on the whole is great Sati. Hope you dig it!

      • Yeah, she is definetly making movies, but as I am fan of hers it’s really saddening how little of her talent she shows in those films, basically being the cute girl over and over again. Both her and Mila Kunis really deserve better material.

  4. Great review. As a fan of both Willis and Levitt I’m glad this is getting great reviews. I probably won’t catch it in theaters (not a fan of them), but I’m definitely looking forward to picking up on Blu-ray.

    • When it hits, be sure to grab it, then. Its definitely worthy of a home viewing, without a doubt.

      And yeah, reviews seem to be universally positive on this one. Its over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Consensus seems to be that its really, really good! :D

  5. LOVED IT!! So awesome! You’re review is dead on. For me, it is an instant sci-fi classic and in true fashion it leads to interesting discussions. I already have to watch it again.

    PS I got to meet Rian Johnson at the Fantastic Fest premiere and he is super cool! And we got to see Cloud Atlas–one word? WOW! Trying to catch up with blog…will review soon.

    • Wowwwwww, that’s awesome! All the better that he was cool. That always makes things so much more memorable. :) Awesome man!!

      As to this movie, it was great, no doubt. Sci-Fi classic? Hmmmmmmmmmm…. not 100% sure yet, but leaning towards yes. Another viewing will help.

      Cloud Atlas was good huh? Thats cool. Cause right now it looks like it could go either way, I’m not sure. But I’ll take your word for it, and raise my expectations! :D

    • It’s a good question, and I usually do address that when a movie comes so close to maxing out…

      Here, it was mainly the “Acceptance Check” with the final act in the barn. They do shift gears into a portion that’s a harder degree of sci-fi to swallow. And Im cool with it, it passed, but the A++ movies never take me out of it at all. I’m sure a lot of people just went along smoothly with it, but I can also see a certain percentage of people saying things like “That movie was awesome until they started…” keeping this spoiler free, but if you’ve had a chance to see it, you’ll know what I mean.

  6. Good review Fogs. The emotional-involvement of this flick never fully got to me, but the story was always interesting, the script was always fun to listen to, and the film as a whole, was just an entertaining and smart piece of sci-fi fiction that doesn’t live up to all the hype it’s been getting, but comes pretty damn close. The problem with this flick, is that it’s one of those cases where if you start to think about it for too long, you start to realize some gaping plot-holes and misunderstood conventions of the future, but you know what? It’s all in good fun in the end.

    • Yeah, you could definitely rip into the time line and pick some things apart. I didnt have that much problem with the kid’s place in time as I did Paul Dano’s character. When they did what they did (in order to establish the message via scar moment, I believe, LOL), I had some issues. I was like, wait a minute… you cant outright kill him cause it’ll mess things up, but you can… do THAT to him, and its all going to work out fine? LOL. There were issues.

      But you know what, Dan? Like you said, its all good in the end. Suspension of disbelief was in full effect!

  7. Hi, Fogs and company:

    I’m with Sati on this one. Kind of skipped over the review because I’m anxious to see what Gordon-Levitt, Willis and Blunt bring to the party. Been a big fan of Rian Johnson since ‘Brick’, so my sights are set high.

  8. This is one of the years best Fogs and after just seeing it the only thing I can think to say it ‘Hollywood film miracles never cease to amaze!’

  9. Not too shabby but the prostitute figure was undeveloped – the idea is rather TERMINATOR-ish – and the makeup on JGL distracting and unnecessary. Nice write up; check out mine.

  10. YAAAYYY! You liked it! I’m so excited for this but I had a sinking feeling it would let me down, like all those terrible movies with awesome trailers, you know? Can’t wait to see this now:))

    • LOL. You know? Unfortunately I DO know what you mean. So few movies actually fulfill their promises.

      This one does though Livi, it really does. It’s a trippy, taut thriller. I enjoyed it quite a bit, I hope you do too when you get a chance to see it!

  11. The difference with the time travel in Looper than in a movie like Back to the Future is that it deals with time loops instead of direct back and forth in time. This allows for multiple timelines that exist simultaneously instead of just one timeline. Anyway the movie was great and so was the review.

  12. I waited to read the post and comments until I had seen the film. You are usually careful about spoilers but I like to know as little about the story as possible when I see it for the first time. Too many trailers spoil the films now a days. I think I feel almost exactly as you do about this movie. It is more serious than it appears on the surface and it was executed really well. My acceptance point was earlier, with a decision about whether I cared about any of the characters to begin with. The set up sweeps you along and plot points start piling up. I felt my motivations shifting constantly and being surprised and pleased by the third act.

    If you get a chance: http://kirkhamclass.blogspot.com/2012/09/looper.html

    • I can see that… about the characters, that is. Young Joe is a pretty amoral dude.

      At the end of the day, I was really “surprised and pleased” by the third act as well, but I have to think its going to lose a small percentage of its audience by asking them to go that extra Sci-Fi mile.

      Glad you concur Richard, always nice to have support. I think there’s going to be a relatively resounding consensus on this one. It’s a winner.

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