Review: Looper

Just when you thought Hollywood studios were incapable of making anything original comes Looper, an endlessly creative mind-blowing film that captures everything right about the movie going experience.

On every level, Director/Writer Rian Johnson (Breaking Bad) conjures up the most imaginative action/science fiction film since Inception.

Joe (an excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Dark Knight Rises) is a looper — a low-level mercenary — in 2042 that has a special arrangement with the mob. Whenever someone needs to get killed, the mob utilizes outlawed time-traveling equipment in 2072 to send a victim back to the past where loopers kill them and dispose of the body.

A looper’s life is generally pretty standard: make the kill; dump the body; report to the mob boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels); party with fellow loopers and lead an otherwise uneventful life. Since the mob doesn’t like loose ends, eventually a looper will kill their future self and be free to lead their life until that fateful encounter 30 years down the road.

On a seemingly routine job, Joe is ambushed by his older self (Bruce Willis, The Expendables 2), who seeks to kill the Rainmaker — an evil mob boss — before he comes to power in 2072 and ruins Joe’s peaceful future. Old Joe has narrowed the possible future Rainmakers to three children and is faced with the ethical dilemma of killing the kids to protect his life.

The plot is a take on the old philosophical question of if you could go back in time and kill Adolph Hitler in his crib — knowing the horrors he’d commit later in life — would you?

Young Joe tracks down and befriends one potential victim, Cid (Pierce Gagnon) along with his mother, Sara (the consistently reliable Emily Blunt, Your Sister’s Sister). Johnson pays homage to The Terminator with a time-traveling antagonist coming to kill a child and the mother named Sara or Sarah (Connor). Johnson does it one better by having the film’s “hero” and “villain” as the same character.

Willis is at his best here, showing Old Joe’s conflicting emotions as he realizes the pain he will cause to fix his future. Gordon-Levitt (complete with prosthetic makeup to look like a young Willis) is thrilling to watch as he channels Willis and brings Young Joe’s realization of his empty and loveless life to light.

It leads to a fascinating dynamic and one where audience members can root for either side. Johnson keeps the pace moving and while time travel stories can easily get confusing, he is careful never to have the characters talking over the audience’s head or going so fast that you’re lost with no hope of figuring out what’s happening. He smartly limits the action to small doses and is one of the few directors to scale back expectations of future tech making the events seem much more likely to occur 60 years from now.

Looper is a welcome breath of fresh (fall film) air with an inspired premise and stellar acting. It’s easily one of my favorite films this year and one you absolutely must see on the big screen.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Photo Credit: Alan Markfield/Sony Pictures Publicity

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  • Just got back from watching it. Absolutely agree, this is a brilliant film overflowing with moral complexity and discussion-worthy questions. For all of its brutality and ethical conundrums, it’s also surprisingly understated. Definitely one of the best films this year.

  • Pierre Mooney

    You mentioned INCEPTION which was much too confusing for me to enjoy. But I hope to see it as you did say it is “original”, which is what I am seeking in films now a days. So, I would not want to miss it.

  • jklmd2002

    Thanks for the comment and the follow, John!
    I thought Johnson did a great job of not going too over the top with the action to make it comical. It was violent only when necessary.

  • Yeah Pierre. You definitely should appreciate it for not being like every other movie out there and I don’t think it’s as complicated as “Inception.”

  • K’lee

    I went from reading a great review to sitting in a theatre waiting for this movie to begin just yesterday. I am happy to report my time could not have been better spent! This is what REAL movie-making should be all about. At once intelligent, emotional, suspenseful, thrilling. Looper is easily my pick for best movie of 2012. The cast is sensational…the kid…the kid is utterly amazing. Every actor in this film should pact themselves and their director on the back for a job done right!

    Would I go see it again? You betcha!

  • jklmd2002

    Very glad to hear you enjoyed it as much as I did!

    I’m kinda disappointed it has done good, but not great at the box office as this type of film deserves the big box office take.

  • reeblite

    this is thought provoking, the deepest sci fi movie i’ve ever seen in my fifty years. this one will make the text books, enjoyed more than the master, and i liked the master. kudos to johnson and your great review.

  • jklmd2002

    Thanks reeblite!

    That’s one of the main aspects I loved so much about it. It’s not just action, but it really makes you think about how you’d react in a similar position from both characters’ perspectives.

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  • Andrew

    Excellent review. If I’ve read your review correctly, you and I seem to agree that the most interesting, the most fundamental, question in the movie is, “If you could kill Adolf Hitler as a child, would you?”

    There are other interesting questions, too, brought up by classic sci-fi movies, including, “Can you kill if you dehumanize your victim?” (Blade Runner and others) and the ol’ chestnut, “If you could go back in time and talk to your past self, what would you say?”

    But I digress.

    Back to the Hitler question. It’s an interesting question with this film because there’s a lot more surrounding it. The writer seems to say, “Would you kill Hitler? Maybe you would because you would assume it’s a cut-and-dried situation, but what if it wasn’t?”

    Old Joe isn’t 100% positive who the Rainmaker is, so the question becomes, “What if you had to kill three children who MAY become Hitler? Would you do it if it meant preventing the Holocaust? Now what if it’s not a Holocaust but a handful of criminals? And they were your friends?”

    But even then it’s more complicated than that because it’s not The Future Old Joe is trying to save; he’s just trying to save his wife and his happy little life off the grid.

    I’ll stop there before I go on and on. Again, thanks for a good read.

  • Thanks for the thoughts Andrew! Appreciate the kind words!

    It was definitely one of my favorites this year and I’m looking forward to it coming out on Blu-Ray to check out again.

    I loved how it actually made you think in addition to having some great action moments and performances.

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