Looper

Bottom Line: Looper is loopy, exhilarating fun.

Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Frank Brennan, Jeff Daniels, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Noah Segan, Paul Dano, Pierce Gagnon, Piper Perabo, Summer Qing, Tracie Thoms

Looper is a science fiction beauty so bizarrely ingenious, I wouldn’t be surprised if H.G. Wells’s spirit let out a loud cheer to the afterlife after it caught a peek at the screenplay. The year is 2044, and the main issue is time travel. The phenomenon has not yet been invented, but come thirty years, it will have been. It will also, however, be instantaneously outlawed. Our story revolves around Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a fellow known as a “Looper”. He is one of a handful of men who are aware of the feat-to-come, and use it in secret to their advantage. On a daily basis, Joe sits down in a field and waits for a victim to be sent back from 2074; once this happens, he murders his victim and collects the money he or she has brought along. At one point during this activity, Joe recognizes one of the victims that have been sent. He realizes it is himself (Bruce Willis), only thirty years older. He discovers that his older self has come to the past on a fleeting mission to prevent a certain tragedy long before it occurs. And this is beneficial for the older Joe, but it could lead the younger Joe’s life in a much different direction.

“Yippee-ki-yay, motherlooper.” Bad pun, but I couldn’t resist.

Science fiction is wearing thin as quickly as someone on a binge diet. In every recent year, at least one film is released to prove the genre still has legs. 2009 – Avatar. 2010 – Inception. 2011 – Super 8. Early this summer, Prometheus was released, and it wasn’t terribly likely there would be any sci-fi to top its magnificence. Looper doesn’t reach peaks quite as insurmountably high, but it would be a sin to say it doesn’t come close. Think of what Inception would be if the central concept were time travel, with a lead that echoes to Harrison Ford’s in Blade Runner. Although the script does occasionally falter in trying to avoid inconsistencies***, it is crafted with the use of every last possible ounce of thought. Writer Rian Johnson, who also directed, goes against the grain as far as style. He is aware that most science fiction trash—ignoring B-movie garbage—comes from screenwriters trying to construct the future into the paragon. It’s great to finally see a film in which characters have the same sort of things in their way as we do today. Elevators run slowly, traffic takes hours to push through, etc. Best of all, this makes it easy to focus on the central premise.

In its technical realm, Looper is grand. The sound is mixed and edited to perfection, often muting out conversations or dubbing them over with the sound of a ticking clock; hopeful up-and-comer Nathan Johnson, whose cousin is the director himself, provides a musical score that works just as well. The cinematography is especially great, employing steady yet somewhat fast-paced shots during action sequences, and more contained angles otherwise. These achievements are the crux of what keeps our interest during the perplexing setup, and only allow it to excel from then on. When the technical grandeur works in conjunction with successful delivery from both Gordon-Levitt and Willis, and a suddenly arbitrary route taken in the screenplay’s mentality, the result is one of the most unpredictable, shocking endings in at least twenty years. These words coming from the critic who found the “twist ending” in The Sixth Sense all too obvious.

***Early on, Joseph Gordon-Levitt spent an entire scene making it known that he was “going to France”. After that, however, any desire to visit France lacks a single mention, and we instead find Joe moving to Shanghai.

A MINUS

NOMINEE
Best Screenplay; Best Original Music; Best Effects

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15 thoughts on “Looper

  1. Thought that was very generous grading! Mainly I’m really surpised you thought the ending was a surprise twist.. *spoiler* that he was going to have to kill himself was all too obvious as soon as the narrative went off on the ridiculous child-killing spree.. Admittedly though, the first half was so awesome that it’s potentially good enough to try and forget the second.

    https://strangeronfilm.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/review-looper-rian-johnson/

    • ***HUGE SPOILERS***
      I found the ending a bit sudden when it first came, but then after concentrating on it for a bit, it all really pieced together. I don’t get how a murderous, Danny Torrance-esque child and a grown man committing suicide for the good of others have anything in common. Maybe we had different interpretations. Thanks for commenting.

    • Of course you know I’ve watched three movies in one day (actually, my record is four), but never at the theater!

      Looper will definitely be worth your money. Not sure about Premium Rush or Frankenweenie, but hopefully the former isn’t what it appears to be (The Fast and the Furious with bikes rather than cars), and hopefully the latter is better than Tim Burton’s other recent effort.

      • I’ve actually seen three movies in one day, at the theater, several times before. It’s fantastic. Movie theater websites tend to be misleading around here, so maybe all three of those won’t be opening on Friday but, if they are, I’m definitely watching all of them. Looper, of course, has received overwhelmingly positive response (could a BP nomination be in the horizon?), but Premium Rush was gotten its fair share of good reviews (it’s supposed to be very fun) and so has Frankenweenie.

  2. Great review! I adored the movie, it was such a fresh, great story – one that leaves you guessing and thinking about it long after you saw the movie. The execution was top notch too, the editing was wonderful, probably the best this year.

    • I agree with you 100%. I really loved this movie. Sometimes, I felt like it was forcing me to focus (occasionally around the middle), but other than that it blew my mind.

      I don’t know how a sequel would work, but a prequel would be nice to see. Sad to discover how long this one’s taking to work its way up at the box office, despite all the hype.

  3. Enjoyed your review! When you said “I enjoyed it a lot. Not quite as much as you, though, as I found some things to pick at.” I was expecting a much lower grade.

    I especially liked your bottom Line: “Looper is loopy, exhilarating fun.” I figured it was either that or, “It threw me for a loop!” rimshot 🙂

    • Recently, I’ve been trying to base my grades on how much I loved a film, weighted along with its flaws. I was really stunned by this film, but there were definitely some things to pick at that brought it down to a lower grade.

      Glad you enjoyed my review…and the bottom line.

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