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Review: Looper

Sep. 28, 2012by: Eric Walkuski

You can read Chris Bumbray's LOOPER review right here!

PLOT: In a future where time travel exists but is only utilized by criminals, a hitman for a crime syndicate finds himself in a metaphysical bind when his future self comes back to the past with a dire warning.

REVIEW: Many genres and ideas swirl together in LOOPER, Rian Johnson's thoughtful, intense and completely entertaining time travel yarn that is as difficult to describe as it is to resist. There's little question that it's almost immediately going to become a cult classic, and its prospects shouldn't end there, as it has enough mainstream appeal to satisfy a wide audience. That's saying a lot for a movie that starts off as a hard-nosed thriller, moves into time travel conundrum territory, then boldly transitions into something of a western/love story, with a little sprinkle of supernatural horror flick, just for added flavor.

The year is 2044. Time travel exists but has become illegal. Available only on the black market, it's seemingly used solely by the mob in the further future to dispose of bodies in the past. (The past in this case being 2044.) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a "looper" whose function is to blast the undesirables the mob sends back to him; the victims appear out of thin air, Joe shoots them immediately, and then gets rid of the corpse. It's a redundant life, and Joe's moderate contentment is only elevated when he's high. His only companionship comes in the form of an exotic dancer (Piper Perabo), and his only real "friends" are his fellow loopers and their boss, a craggy mobster named Abe (Jeff Daniels), who is from the future and keeps an eye on things here in the past. Joe is saving up stacks of money so that one of these days he can get out of the life and his hometown (the story is set in Kansas City) and more or less disappear.

Things are complicated when, in the future, a vicious new crime lord calling himself The Rainmaker decides to start "closing the loops," which means sending the older loopers back in time to be murdered - usually by their younger selves. Joe, of course, is eventually faced with his older self (Bruce Willis) and a moment's hesitation allows Old Joe to get away, which is extreme trouble in this world. Abe and his twitchy, homicidal sidekick Kid Blue (Noah Segan) now target both Joes, who come together in a wonderful scene in a dreary diner to talk things over. Young Joe isn't necessarily inclined to care about Old Joe's problems, but Old Joe has a serious message for the ignorant kid, and urges with him to embark on a rather sinister mission to wipe out their future dilemmas in the here and now.

A lot to take in, yes? It isn't easy to boil it all down to a few sentences. This is why LOOPER is a film that needs to be experienced; it doesn't open itself up easily for summary.

What's so fantastic about LOOPER is that it takes its ingenious concept and subverts it oh so subtly. Just when you think you know where the plot is going ("Ah-ha, so both versions of Joe are going to team-up together to take down their common enemies!"), LOOPER upends your expectations and settles into a deliberate and reflective third act that you couldn't possibly see coming. Less patient viewers might find themselves disappointed by the movie's unexpected detour toward a quieter, less frenetic mood (the first half of the film has the gritty urgency of a hard-boiled crime thriller), but Johnson has plenty of tricks up his sleeve and he saves some of the more unusual for last.

It's also to Johnson's credit that LOOPER doesn't get bogged down in the time travel stuff; indeed, the movie's attitude is often "I don't want to talk about time travel." The film isn't about time travel, it simply uses it as a device to provide a dramatic and intense face-off between two world-weary, desperate men... who happen to be the same man. One of LOOPER's most subtle touches is how it never lets us forget that we're watching just one man here, but we also quickly come to accept them as two different characters. Gordon-Levitt's youthful determination is perfectly contrasted by Willis' somber wisdom. The casting here could not be more spot-on, and both performances completely capture two separate stages of a single person's life. And yes, they look sort of alike, in an uncanny way that is completely fascinating yet not at all distracting.

Emily Blunt eventually emerges well past the point where the typical love interest would be introduced, but like the film she inhabits, Blunt's Sara is not close to being typical. A tough single mother who fits right into this take-no-shit world, the character is key to the picture's startling finale, but the less said on that front, the better...

While LOOPER often exhilarates with its thoughtfulness and ingenuity, it also just as frequently disturbs; a brilliant sequence involving a character who is slowly dissolving in front of our eyes (and his own) is probably the best horror sequence of the year. There's also something deeply unsettling about what Old Joe must do in the past to protect his future; it's impressive to see a major Hollywood movie plumb such dark psychological depths. LOOPER is keen to explore just how screwed up its characters are, which invests us in their plights all the more thoroughly.

I wasn't a huge fan of Johnson's first film, BRICK, which won raves for the way it took the tenets of film noir and inserted them into a high school setting. The film felt forced to me, I never bought what it was selling, despite plenty of interesting little moments. With LOOPER, Johnson isn't forcing anything; he spins a complicated story spanning multiple genres and moods that flows so naturally it's like he was born to tell it. It's such a wonderful feeling being in the presence of a movie that is wholly unique and exciting, and LOOPER is nothing if not both of those things.

Source: JoBlo.com

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7:49PM on 11/08/2012
I really liked LOOPER. i thought it was well made and had a really cool, kinda unique concept.
I really liked LOOPER. i thought it was well made and had a really cool, kinda unique concept.
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3:41AM on 10/02/2012

um...

Finally saw it, and it was good, not great, just plain ole good. Sure as hell not worth almost perfect. And Johnson's fuck you to time paradox is quite apparent.
Finally saw it, and it was good, not great, just plain ole good. Sure as hell not worth almost perfect. And Johnson's fuck you to time paradox is quite apparent.
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3:09PM on 09/30/2012
It's a decent film, well played and has some nice ideas, but it's not the genius game-changer some people have made it out to be. If you'd never seen a film with a time travel plot before then maybe, but I think most of us are fairly well versed in the genre. The fact that it completely ignores the idea of the paradox suggests they weren't really trying that hard to blow people's minds with that aspect of the film. It's good stuff, but there's little cause for it to become anyone's favourite
It's a decent film, well played and has some nice ideas, but it's not the genius game-changer some people have made it out to be. If you'd never seen a film with a time travel plot before then maybe, but I think most of us are fairly well versed in the genre. The fact that it completely ignores the idea of the paradox suggests they weren't really trying that hard to blow people's minds with that aspect of the film. It's good stuff, but there's little cause for it to become anyone's favourite movie.
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4:31AM on 10/01/2012
Exactly. I feel like Johnson ignored the paradox rule just so that he could get the happy future ending he wanted. He had written himself into a corner, and then bullshitted his way out of it.
Exactly. I feel like Johnson ignored the paradox rule just so that he could get the happy future ending he wanted. He had written himself into a corner, and then bullshitted his way out of it.
1:26AM on 09/30/2012
I agree with people saying the last act is the weakest point of the film. Feels like something completely different.
I agree with people saying the last act is the weakest point of the film. Feels like something completely different.
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1:00AM on 09/30/2012

My theory on the sequel (SPOILER ALERT)

My theory on the 2 remaining children: child 2 (prostitute's kid) and child 3 (Cid) are twins. One good. One evil. One turns out to be the rain maker (child 2) and the other originally dies (child 3) but thanks to young Joe's sacrifice he survives and now can take on the eventual Rainmaker in the sequel. Old Joe never gets to look at child 2 because he is tasered and realizes 3 is the rainmaker (or so he thinks) but we never know who child #2 is. They were born in the same place at the same
My theory on the 2 remaining children: child 2 (prostitute's kid) and child 3 (Cid) are twins. One good. One evil. One turns out to be the rain maker (child 2) and the other originally dies (child 3) but thanks to young Joe's sacrifice he survives and now can take on the eventual Rainmaker in the sequel. Old Joe never gets to look at child 2 because he is tasered and realizes 3 is the rainmaker (or so he thinks) but we never know who child #2 is. They were born in the same place at the same time (twins) and are given to 2 different mothers (mom's sister and the prostitute)
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5:56PM on 09/29/2012

Can't wait to see it!

Wasn't really feeling the hype surrounding this movie until word of mouth and these awesome reviews kept popping up. So glad it's not of those flicks they dump in September because they don't have any confidence in them. Really looking forward to watching Looper sometime this week!
Wasn't really feeling the hype surrounding this movie until word of mouth and these awesome reviews kept popping up. So glad it's not of those flicks they dump in September because they don't have any confidence in them. Really looking forward to watching Looper sometime this week!
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11:23AM on 09/29/2012
This movie could have ended up being on of my favorite films ever. I won't spoil anything but I did not enjoy the direction it went after the midway point I'd say. The last act completely ruined it for me and am surprised that few people don't mind that a film that was once an epic futuristic thriller all of a sudden just stopped and became something else. (I do see that some other people disliked the ending as well)
This movie could have ended up being on of my favorite films ever. I won't spoil anything but I did not enjoy the direction it went after the midway point I'd say. The last act completely ruined it for me and am surprised that few people don't mind that a film that was once an epic futuristic thriller all of a sudden just stopped and became something else. (I do see that some other people disliked the ending as well)
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-5
1:56AM on 09/29/2012
I was with it up until the last 5 minutes when Johnson breaks his own rules to get the contrived ending that he wanted. An ending that invalidates (logically) the rest of the movie. Such a shame.

6.5/10 really just due to the ending. Otherwise, it would have been an 8.
I was with it up until the last 5 minutes when Johnson breaks his own rules to get the contrived ending that he wanted. An ending that invalidates (logically) the rest of the movie. Such a shame.

6.5/10 really just due to the ending. Otherwise, it would have been an 8.
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12:14PM on 10/01/2012
This. He had to go for the art-film ending.
This. He had to go for the art-film ending.
+2
10:58PM on 09/28/2012

Loved it.

Just got back from seeing it. Man, what a great movie. The characters are very well written. Bruce reminds me of Unbreakable in this role for the most part. He's very understated except for a few key scenes. What's great is you can completely relate to both versions of himself which makes it all the more fun to watch. Go see it!
Just got back from seeing it. Man, what a great movie. The characters are very well written. Bruce reminds me of Unbreakable in this role for the most part. He's very understated except for a few key scenes. What's great is you can completely relate to both versions of himself which makes it all the more fun to watch. Go see it!
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8:13PM on 09/28/2012

Brilliant

Simply superb, the Looping explanation at the beginning closes many of the time travel loopholes (no pun intended) that many films leave wide open. I simply cannot express enough how great this was.
Simply superb, the Looping explanation at the beginning closes many of the time travel loopholes (no pun intended) that many films leave wide open. I simply cannot express enough how great this was.
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+4
6:25PM on 09/28/2012

An Enthusiast's Enthusiastic Take

LOOPER is that rare film that rears it's head once in a blue moon. Okay, fuck blue moons, Looper is the blood-red Apocalypse Moon of all movies. Ever.

Yes, I'm amped up on adrenaline and Dr. Pepper. Yes, I haven't given this film any time to resonate (I just walked out of the theater 15 minutes ago). And yes, I've been starved for an original sci-fi cinematic experience for longer than I can remember. But barring all those factors, LOOPER exceeded my every expectation. And believe me, I
LOOPER is that rare film that rears it's head once in a blue moon. Okay, fuck blue moons, Looper is the blood-red Apocalypse Moon of all movies. Ever.

Yes, I'm amped up on adrenaline and Dr. Pepper. Yes, I haven't given this film any time to resonate (I just walked out of the theater 15 minutes ago). And yes, I've been starved for an original sci-fi cinematic experience for longer than I can remember. But barring all those factors, LOOPER exceeded my every expectation. And believe me, I expected a lot. Especially after all those positive reviews flooded the Twittersphere after the film's TIFF premiere.

LOOPER is not just a tightly wound, perfectly casted, original film... it is an anti-film. It's the first time that I've watched a genre movie where there is no clear cut protagonist, a film stacked with anti-heroes that pulled my allegiance from one amazing scene to the next. One could argue that Tarantino's early films could fall into this category (I'm looking at you, Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction), but even those films had clear cut takes on a specific character psyche. In LOOPER, the characters are all over the place. Good and bad. Bad and good. Even the lynch-pin child character in this film is a ball of psychosis and internal (and most notably, external) rage.

The actors portraying these dense and utterly engaging characters are at the top of their game. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as young Joe, plays to the mannerisms of his older self (in the form of a surprisingly unsmirking Bruce Willis) to subtle perfection. It ain't always there, but every once and again, JGL lets the Bruno shine in a very effective way. And it works. Big time. I even forgot he was under a few inches of make-up to create the uncanny similarities between him and his counterpoint.

And speaking of the long overdue Bruce Willis, I won't be shy in stating that this is his best work since the original Die Hard. I won't spoil it, but there is a scene in the final act where Willis regains the award for Most Ass-Kicking Action Man of the 21st Century. He is completely BAD-ASS. And once you see what I'm talking about, you'll be hard pressed to argue with this opinion. Shit, the role of Old Joe cuts films like MERCURY RISING and THE JACKAL completely out of the loop. Loop fucking closed.

The supporting cast is just as mesmerizing. Emily Blunt, as Sarah, is a faux ferocious mother with her back against the wall and a few secrets of her own. Jeff Daniels is an understated and creepy crime boss who made me sick to my stomach in an early interrogation scene. Damn, that guy is great. Even the amazing Garret Dillahunt takes a tiny, but pivotal role as a spooky Gat-Man (read: future mob goon), and makes it something special.

But the real surprise here was Pierce Gagnon. This kid was spot-on as the sweet and sinister, duality-infused, Cid. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.

Like any film, there are things that I would have wanted tweaked. Noah Segan as an ineffectual Gat-Man named Kid Blue could have stayed on the cutting room floor and the film would have been just as good, if not better. He just felt a little shoe-horned into this thing, but it certainly didn't ruin anything for me.

I cannot say enough good things about LOOPER. My pulse pounded, my head swirled, and my senses were left reeling. When I walked out of the theater and into the desert sun, I didn't know if I wanted to scream out in joy, or sit in my car and cry. And that to me is what cinema is all about.

This is the first time I've felt compelled to write a (albeit, half-assed) film review in a long time. But I just thought you'd like to be in the loop.

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5:15PM on 09/28/2012

... I think I honestly disliked Looper.

Like I disliked the ending so much that it's kind of ruined the fantastic moments earlier. It was an 8 or a 9 up until the final act, and then I saw where it was going and it's dropping it to a 5 or 6 at best. I won't say don't see it, because there really are some great moments, but man...
Like I disliked the ending so much that it's kind of ruined the fantastic moments earlier. It was an 8 or a 9 up until the final act, and then I saw where it was going and it's dropping it to a 5 or 6 at best. I won't say don't see it, because there really are some great moments, but man...
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1:00PM on 09/28/2012
Had to stop reading after the first paragraph. All I've been hearing is the less you know about the story the better and Chris Bumbray's review was perfect in regards to that.

I never understand why a reviewer would give a near play-by-play of, usually, the first half hour to 40 minutes to start his review off. I always prefer a more undetailed, yet accurate, description of the overall feel of the film, the story, the performances, music etc.
Had to stop reading after the first paragraph. All I've been hearing is the less you know about the story the better and Chris Bumbray's review was perfect in regards to that.

I never understand why a reviewer would give a near play-by-play of, usually, the first half hour to 40 minutes to start his review off. I always prefer a more undetailed, yet accurate, description of the overall feel of the film, the story, the performances, music etc.
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5:49AM on 09/28/2012
when is the future set? you've said it's 2044 and they send them back to 2044?
when is the future set? you've said it's 2044 and they send them back to 2044?
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3:55PM on 09/28/2012
People are sent from 2072 to 2044, when the movie takes place.
People are sent from 2072 to 2044, when the movie takes place.
3:05AM on 09/28/2012
I'm guessing this means that China has removed it's ban on time travel movies since this is opening there on the same day as the US and was even co-produced by a Chinese distributor.
I'm guessing this means that China has removed it's ban on time travel movies since this is opening there on the same day as the US and was even co-produced by a Chinese distributor.
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7:43AM on 09/28/2012
China never had a ban on time travel movies from overseas: they were just refusing to subsidize local period films that combined kung fu action with the supernatural because after Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon there were a glut of such films and they just weren't making an impression at the box office, probably because such films were now available on DVD and being shown on TV and people were getting sick of the genre. The Chinese word for "period film" was mistranslated as "time travel film"
China never had a ban on time travel movies from overseas: they were just refusing to subsidize local period films that combined kung fu action with the supernatural because after Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon there were a glut of such films and they just weren't making an impression at the box office, probably because such films were now available on DVD and being shown on TV and people were getting sick of the genre. The Chinese word for "period film" was mistranslated as "time travel film" and that's how people got confused: if you read the whole press report that the government put out then its clear what sort of films they were talking about because, yeah, there have been a lot of such films released over here recently and they really don't look interesting at all.
2:23AM on 09/28/2012
I'd give it an 8, though a 9 isn't out of the question either. What really struck me was how refreshing it was. We schmoes often complain that Hollywood seems to have well and truly lost its creativity and is content in churning out production line cash-ins, banking on the names of franchises by way of sequels and remakes. I think Looper is a blunderbusser blast in the face to all of that. It's a heady, intelligently-made science fiction film that true aficionados of the genre will want to take
I'd give it an 8, though a 9 isn't out of the question either. What really struck me was how refreshing it was. We schmoes often complain that Hollywood seems to have well and truly lost its creativity and is content in churning out production line cash-ins, banking on the names of franchises by way of sequels and remakes. I think Looper is a blunderbusser blast in the face to all of that. It's a heady, intelligently-made science fiction film that true aficionados of the genre will want to take in, layering emotion, thrills and philosophy one on top of the other. It may not be immediately accessible and it will take a bit of effort to make sense of, but audiences will be amply rewarded.
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-5
1:57AM on 09/28/2012
Certainly one of the more original sci-fi films out there, though the second half could have used a little work, so I'd give it a 7. Still pretty good. Here's my full review:

[link]
Certainly one of the more original sci-fi films out there, though the second half could have used a little work, so I'd give it a 7. Still pretty good. Here's my full review:

[link]
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+4
1:57AM on 09/28/2012
The 9 is very well deserved. This was an awesome movie, I loved it. The best Sci-Fi I've seen in a long, long time. This is the movie to see this weekend.
The 9 is very well deserved. This was an awesome movie, I loved it. The best Sci-Fi I've seen in a long, long time. This is the movie to see this weekend.
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+3
1:38AM on 09/28/2012
Seeing it this weekend, I can't wait!
Seeing it this weekend, I can't wait!
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