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

  1. Hells yes is what I have to say to your review. And the third act of this film featuring Emily Blunt’s character? Really loved it. That was the heart of the film for me. Both the Joes are pretty hard characters. They’re not an easy in for the film viewer. BUT … combined with Emily’s character – perfect for me. Itching to see it again.

    • Helllllls yes. :D

      I liked the third act, too, I just suspect it’s going to lose some people.

      That said, I’m with you. Read your review, know you’re high on it. I am too. Fantastic fantastic flick. I’m itching to see it again, too.

  2. I’m always leary of time travel movies but I also love Bruce Willis as an actor. He is good at both the comedic characters and the angst ridden characters. I was supposed to see this on Sunday but came down with a bad ear infection in both ears so I didn’t feel like going. I’m hoping to make there this coming weekend or next.

    • Ohhh. Well, I hope you feel better, first off.

      And when you do, you’ve got an awesome movie to look forward to, especially if you’re a Bruce Willis fan! This is definitely one of his better recent efforts!!

    • Yeah, we’ve been seeing eye to eye quite a bit. Always nicer than having to tell someone they’re offbase, isnt it? :D

      “Looper” seems to be having every one sing the same tune, though. “Awesome” appears to be the general consensus. :D

    • Heheheh. LOL

      I cant at this moment, but I am definitely looking forward to it. :D

      A great sign of how funny your posts are is that even when you’re dead ass wrong, they still crack me up. I win either way!

      I’ll swing by soon, today is “In the theatre day”.

  3. My fingers are exhausted from having written so much about this movie between my review, my big ol’ essay on GST, and comments on blogs and movie sites like CHUD. Basically, an easy favorite for me and one of the best things to come out of 2012; if nothing else it’s a nice rebound for Johnson after The Brothers Bloom, which isn’t bad by any means but certainly lacks focus.

    Looper is exactly the kind of film that I love– one that presents an ethical quandary and doesn’t resolve that quandary in the most perfect, happy, positive way. That means we’re left to consider whether the film has the right answer or not. I talked to my father-in-law’s rabbi about Cabin in the Woods last September as research I’m doing for an essay (really); that film still happens to be one of my favorites out of the year, and Looper stands right along with it by asking one of the more favored jerk-off “what if” questions of the last seven decades or so: if you could go back in time and kill Hitler as a child, would you?

    Of course, Cid is no Hitler, but he is a big nasty mob tyrant who– apart from making the world a dangerous place to live in thanks to his legions of Gat Men– commits a narrow form of genocide by closing all of the loops. I imagine that the loopers aren’t his only specially-picked groups of victims, either, but between the hits we see carried out in Old Joe’s story montage and the number of loops we know get closed, we’re pretty well aware that Cid is a giant mass murder in 2074. So Old Joe’s story is basically a much-reduced variation on that question, and one that isn’t motivated by prejudice or ethnicity or anything like that, either.

    And it’s an interesting question. The thing is, the film doesn’t really bother to answer it straight-on, either. Old Joe looks like the heavy here, and he is, but he’s also grey and ambiguous and complicated. He’s not boasting a Snidely Whiplash handlebar ‘stache here. It just about breaks him to shoot an innocent child, and probably does even worse things to him when he realizes later on that he shot the wrong kid. Is he necessarily wrong here? I think his methods are ethically spotty, but he’s not wrong to want to stop the killings that have occurred in his lifetime.

    But that’s not why he goes back in time. As much as he berates Young Joe for being self-absorbed, Old Joe remains very self-interested, so Looper ends up being a film about a moral dilemma that’s built around a story of people growing up and seeing outside of their own interests. I love that. It’s layered, it’s thought-provoking, and it haunts. I feel bad for people who can’t see that.

    Glad you liked it as much as I did. I know it’ll end up on my “best of” list for the year– once we get to that point.

    • That essay on GST was awesome. Reshared it on reddit and gave it a tweet. Thorough and comprehensive look at the time traveling and moral elements of the film. Highly worthy of recommending to people.

      But man, did you have to bring up Cabin in the Woods again? :D You remember that we had it over that movie, right? LOL. I’m sure you do…

      There is a ton of moral and ethical mining to do here with this film. I’ve seen a couple of bloggers say they got lost when they lost their grip on Old Joe as the “Hero” or “Moral Center” of the movie due to him killing the kids. Personally, I thought it was a) Ballsy of a movie to do that and b) Morally complicated, which leads to this type of analysis, and who doesn’t love that? :D

      Yes, I loved it too. It’s a mortal lock for my top ten, and has a shot at Movie of the Year, but there are still several strong candidates vying for that spot yet to come… we’ll see. :D

      • Hey, I’m not trying to go too far into Cabin with you, but you can’t deny that it definitely revolves around a great ethical question. And just like Cabin is about spotty morality, so too is Looper, just in a different way.

        And thanks for the kind words on the essay– and for the social media love. Much obliged. I would love for that to go viral, but outside of tweeting the hell out of it I’m sort of lost. Regardless, it’s something I’m proud of that I’ll keep in my portfolio, so to speak.

        As far as Old Joe– I think that’s the point, actually. Once Old Joe’s plan becomes clear and he starts actually, successfully enacting it, we completely lose the man we expect to serve as the film’s moral center. We’re inclined, naturally so, to think of Bruce as the good guy, so when Bruno guns down a child in cold blood, Looper completely upends our expectations.

        Which works, because Johnson by that point has already taken the film in a direction that’s very unexpected. Maybe I can only speak for myself (okay, not maybe), but I really thought that Looper would end up teaming Gordon-Levitt with Willis against the Future Mob, with Emily Blunt’s hotness thrown in the middle for good measure. But it’s not that film at all, and honestly, I love having my expectations subverted. So when Old Joe kills a young boy, all the rules go out the window and Young Joe becomes our protagonist– which is a tough pill to swallow, because he’s kind of a punk.

        But that’s the point of his arc– growing up and becoming someone other than the bored, directionless killer his life has shaped him into. (I say “his life” as though he has no control over it, but while he does, he never exercises it. His whole life has been dictated by other people making decisions for him. When he commits suicide, it’s the first time in the film and in his entire existence that he’s really made a decision on his own that will impact and alter his life.)

        And I’ve written nearly a whole other essay between these two comments alone, so I’m cutting myself off. Other than to say, yes, this is a mortal lock on my top ten, too, probably higher. Obviously.

  4. Just caught this one on cable. Excellent flick. Not what I expected. A+ is well deserving. Lots of surprises in this one.

    • Yeah, Looper was an awesome flick. Loved the plot. Not 100% airtight, when you break it down, but so entertaining and well acted that you dont care. :D JGL did a great job as a young Willis.

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