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Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Bruce Willis
Emily Blunt.
Rian Johnson.
Rian Johnson.
Running Time
118 minutes

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Time To Kill

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The mid-21st century. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is employed as a ‘looper’, a hit man who executes victims sent back from 30 years in his future, when time travel has been invented and is controlled by organised crime. When his older self (Bruce Willis) turns up as a target, he fails to carry out the hit. Both versions of Joe go on the run and try to affect their future — which involves single mother Sara (Emily Blunt), who owns the farm where the younger Joe hides out from his vengeance-seeking gang, and Sara’s telekinetic son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).

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When two versions of the same man sit in a diner discussing time travel paradoxes, it’s almost a relief that the older (not necessarily wiser) incarnation tries to change the subject — claiming that talking too much about this stuff makes your head hurt and they’ll only end up drawing diagrams on the table. Of course, one point of this scene is to admit that we’ve been here before and will most likely pass this way again. Headache-inducing paradoxes have been a part of the time travel sub-genre of science-fiction ever since Mark Twain and H. G. Wells first set out to close the loop (here a synonym for a combination of murder and suicide) and the movies have evolved a complicated visual language for depicting the process of history being rewritten.

An early, crucial sequence of Looper shows an old man (Frank Brennan) on the run while his younger self (Paul Dano) is being tortured — suddenly, his past is altered so that messages appear written on his arm in long-healed scars, and his fingers, facial features and limbs disappear as his memory is rewritten to give him a life of 30 years as a mangled basket case. Otherwise, narration sets up the premise and nudges you not to ask too many questions. Like recent, clunkier S-F action films Repo Men, Surrogates and In Time, a whole noirish society is built around one new tech trick and we just have to accept it to get into the chase flow.

The title might even be a conscious echo of Michael Crichton’s Looker, an early example of single-issue dystopian cinema, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s presence carries over from the one recent unassailable triumph of the form, Inception. Surely, even in a society run by CSI HAL — the justification for time travel as an alternative to dropping a corpse off the East Pier with feet in a bucket of concrete — there are easier ways of getting rid of a disappointing associate than zapping them into the past to be gunned down at the edge of a cornfield which has the same purpose as the forest glade in Miller’s Crossing? Also, a sociopathic master crook with a monopoly on time travel tech should have more ambitious ways to mess with history than this, especially when the mysterious Rainmaker — crime boss of the future’s future — seems to have no qualms about dickering with the space-time continuum in the way most S-F franchises are sniffy about.

Those quibbles are literally beside the point, which is — despite a level of plot complication that a degree in quantum physics won’t help you sort out — a simple, emotional truth. If you could go back in time and tell your younger self where he was going wrong, the kid still wouldn’t listen to you. And if you saw how badly things were going to turn out, you’d probably just make them worse. With the high-school noir Brick and the con-man triangle drama The Brothers Bloom, writer-director Rian Johnson established himself as a distinctive voice in mid-budget coffee house cinema, the sort whose projects offer the kind of well-written roles that persuade established actors to take pay-cuts to take part. Here, he’s up a level, delivering a post-economic collapse dystopia with an interesting city/country divide which harks back to the Depression (the heroine has to defend her homestead against marauding hobos who’ve failed to make the cut in the big city), and gets to do comic-book action sequences with hover-bikes, oversized guns (the brutal, retro weaponry is nicely designed) and Akira-like telekinetic prodigies.

But it’s still crackling dialogue and unusual characterisations which hold the interest in a genre where those qualities are too often deemed superfluous. Looper connects where, say, Surrogates missed because it feels as if its world has been thought out properly, but also its characters make sense as inhabitants of it — the protagonist is a gangland killer hooked on an eye-drop drug (a nod to that semi-forgotten dystopia Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man?) because of the way he was brought up in hard times and found a father/family substitute in the gang run by a refugee from the future (Jeff Daniels) whose tips (“learn Mandarin”) he ignores as he clings to nostalgic retro items like red vinyl records.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to put up with an effects make-over which turns him into an acceptable young Bruce Willis, to avoid the Young Emma Thompson-didn’t-look-like Alice Eve complaint some made about Men In Black III. He also does a creditable job of not imitating the Bruce of Moonlighting or Die Hard but depicting the kind of callous, incipiently sensitive young gunman who might grow up to be the battered baldie Willis now plays. It’s an irony that if you had time travel and could cast young Bruce Willis in this, you’d still give the role to Gordon-Levitt, whose collaboration with Johnson (after starring in Brick he had a bit part in The Brothers Bloom) is becoming a regular and noteworthy teaming. A 30-year montage shows how one Joe turns into the other in a hard life on the run, with a redemptive late-in-the-day romance, but the circumstances of the story which brings them together invalidates all this, so young Joe has to fast-forward through the tough lessons and emotional maturing older Joe has taken decades on. As in The Adjustment Bureau, a couple of moments in the company of Emily Blunt proves the tonic — like Rachel Weisz in The Brothers Bloom, she gets to do a great deal more than be someone for the heroes to fight over, and her character nurtures secrets that liven up the third act no end.

There are, of course, references to The Terminator (Garret Dillahunt, from the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, shows up in a good cameo as a different type of gat-wielding killing machine) and 12 Monkeys (another of Bruce Willis’ surprisingly frequent ventures into the fourth dimension), when older Joe decides he can solve his problems by murdering the crime boss of the future who is currently a schoolkid, but Johnson takes an unexpected approach to the would-you-kill-Hitler? quandary. There’s one surprise everyone will see coming, but before the film gets there, it does several things — notably, an unforgiveable act any less-independent-minded auteur would probably let himself be talked out of — that come completely out of left field.

Intelligent science-fiction sometimes seems an endangered species — too much physics and there’s a risk of creating something cold and remote, too many explosions and get lost in the multiplex. Looper isn’t perfect, but it pulls off the full Wizard Of Oz: it has a brain, courage and a heart.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Average user rating for Looper
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tp://]Loop erian Johnson`s most recent film was marketed as a time travel movie. Although that is a big part of the movie, in my book it is more the sad story of a man who`s willing to everything in his power to be with his wife and keep the life that he has. A beautiful and at times a moving story. I felt that the time-travel trick was just something to pimp the story, as is the action. What doesn`t mean that those things aren`t good. The whole Lo... More

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Posted by TheGodfather at 22:05, 17 July 2013 | Report This Post

Interesting sci-fi movie

I enjoyed the film the first time I saw it. Very emotional and over the top. The second time I saw it, I realized none of the time travel stuff makes any sense. Then again, it never does, from Back to the Future to Terminator. I suggest just enjoying the ride instead of trying too hard to figure out all the contradictions. ... More

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Posted by film ninja at 00:22, 03 May 2013 | Report This Post

4 STARS...


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Posted by chrisdagnall at 14:00, 30 March 2013 | Report This Post

A Confused And Frustrated Sci-Fi

Sometimes, it's better to just leave certain ideas at the door for sake of filmic cohesion and clarity. Looper really does try to be a memorable sci-fi actioner, but in the end it comes up wanting due to a needlessly contrived narrative and an unflinching but somehow still cliché sense of aggression and violence. The story is probably the strongest aspect of the film, but falls at the first hurdle by allowing audience members to muse on certain aspects of the scenario early on. This means w... More

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Posted by blaud at 16:29, 28 March 2013 | Report This Post

Why does everyone like that third rock from the sun kid so much?

That kid that Christopher Nolan always bums is not cool. He's just someone you want to fill in for giving you shifty eyes all the time. His face looks weird in this, I don't know if it's CG or makeup but it looks stupid it kept distracting me from the plot. His face is more weird than Mark Whalbergs voice in 'The Happening'. My main problem though was why didn't Bruce Willis just beat the shit out of that Kid cause he's obviously way less of a fag. Still for a sci fi it was much better th... More

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Posted by RLTShirley at 17:10, 08 February 2013 | Report This Post


Once again, Empire completely overrates a film. Two stars is more accurate. It's slow, overlong and worst of all boring. It's also incomprehensible as time travel films tend to be. What makes Older Willis think he's gonna get his life back? Younger Willis will just make different decisions. None of the characters were likeable (not that they need to be) but I didn't care about any of them. I didn't care whether they lived or died. The film changes in the second half, it might as well be a... More

Posted by theoriginalcynic at 21:50, 30 January 2013 | Report This Post


Deleted. ... More

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Posted by theoriginalcynic at 21:49, 30 January 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Nope

]poilery stuff may follow ** GOD DAMN YOU, 3rd ACT ! ! For the first 2 acts this had me gripped - intelligent time travel theory, violence, Bruce & JGL on top form, more violence, a slimy Paul Dano. Magnificent. I don't recall a time travel film that pondered the mental changes that might occur as well as the physical ones - the scene between old and young Joe in the diner was very thought provoking. But as we approached the end and the TK stuff came to the fore, this became... More

Posted by Vitamin F at 13:46, 29 January 2013 | Report This Post


Bruce Willis's ad peddling Sky TV had more substance. ... More

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Posted by Normal Control at 18:33, 28 January 2013 | Report This Post

Surprised at the amount of criticism this film is receiving... Refreshing, exciting, very clever and very original. One of the best films this year ... More

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Posted by danfacey711 at 22:40, 03 January 2013 | Report This Post

The Future Is Uncertain

Rian Johnson's futuristic sci-fi action thriller is intelligent, coherent and thought-provoking. Job bloody well done. ... More

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Posted by movienut707 at 09:49, 18 December 2012 | Report This Post


Looper So so very confusing at first but I think I've worked this out now, I think. Very clever sci-fi and very intriguing but my god time travel is a bitch to follow at times haha. I really had to sit back and think about this at times, take it slow. I won't go into the plot too much here as it may take time and I may reveal spoilers by mistake. I'm probably wrong about it myself. Even though this film is based on time travel its not a flashy effects time travel action film, its much... More

Posted by Phubbs at 10:34, 16 December 2012 | Report This Post


It's been said before but it's worth saying again - Shool. Is. Bad. Ass. ... More

Posted by matty_b at 13:37, 05 November 2012 | Report This Post


Bye Batspider. ... More

Posted by shool at 13:34, 05 November 2012 | Report This Post


L: MonsterCat L: Captain Corelli L: ajm1991 Unlike other prominent time travel movies like Primer, Timecrimes etc, Looper is no confusing stuff - even thought it deals with concept deeper than its fellow mates. Bravo to that original, smooth and less complicated script by Rian Johnson. Yes it bears some pot holes (that cant be avoided) and also it gives you some moments to divulge in internet and unnecessarily to mention about those couple of terminologies that comes ... More

Posted by Captain Corelli at 17:44, 04 November 2012 | Report This Post


L: Captain Corelli My detailed review here: Looper sucks. o you keep saying. You appear to be stuck in a bit of a loop yourself. ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 21:06, 03 November 2012 | Report This Post


L: Captain Corelli L: ajm1991 Unlike other prominent time travel movies like Primer, Timecrimes etc, Looper is no confusing stuff - even thought it deals with concept deeper than its fellow mates. Bravo to that original, smooth and less complicated script by Rian Johnson. Yes it bears some pot holes (that cant be avoided) and also it gives you some moments to divulge in internet and unnecessarily to mention about those couple of terminologies that comes along with all time tra... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 18:17, 03 November 2012 | Report This Post


L: ajm1991 Unlike other prominent time travel movies like Primer, Timecrimes etc, Looper is no confusing stuff - even thought it deals with concept deeper than its fellow mates. Bravo to that original, smooth and less complicated script by Rian Johnson. Yes it bears some pot holes (that cant be avoided) and also it gives you some moments to divulge in internet and unnecessarily to mention about those couple of terminologies that comes along with all time travel stuffs !! The movie pays... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Captain Corelli at 18:15, 03 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Looper

L: jrewing1000 Loved it. Would have loved it even more if it wasn't for the selfish pricks who: - used their mobile phone about 5 rows in front of me, constantly checking for messages. - chatted about plot about 5 seats to the side of me - took a phone call right outside the door Anyone who still uses a mobile phone while a film is playing is a complete moron. nyone who still uses a mobile phone while a film is playing should be sent back in time then blasted out of the... More

Posted by chris kilby at 17:47, 02 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Nah mate

I see what you did there. Cant wait to read your reviews of heuse Dark Shite Rises]I Am Bellendugh I shudder to think what you made of t For Red October (You'll fit in here just fine, BTW. ) ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 16:20, 02 November 2012 | Report This Post

RE: Looper

Dystopia, dat topia… Science fiction is always about the present not the future, whether intentionally or not. It can’t help but reflect the times which produced it – all those giant bugs and alien invasions in the 1950s which amplified then-current anxieties about The Bomb and The Red Menace. And look how ekver failed to reflect the prejudices, preoccupations and s last 50 years. There’s nothing as dated as yesterday’s future. So it’s worrying that /i]’s future Kansas (just 30 years ... More

Posted by chris kilby at 16:56, 31 October 2012 | Report This Post


L: the anomaly SPOILERS ENDING OK what did not sit well with me was ... how is the rain maker evil? All we know of him is that in the future he closes the loops. Illegal loops set up by criminals who are sending people back in time to die. The rain maker is basically offing killers. Stopping a criminal process. Sure his goons have caused collateral damage. But alas what else has he done?Taken over all of the organised time and stopped looping. We never find out to what end. t... More

Posted by 36degrees at 04:40, 20 October 2012 | Report This Post


This was far more an emotional film than I expected it to be. I loved it, even if JGL's Bruce Willis face was very, very odd. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:05, 19 October 2012 | Report This Post


He scared the crap out of me......reminded me of Damien ! ... More

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 11:45, 18 October 2012 | Report This Post


L: talpacino L: Keyser Sozzled Really really enjoyed it. Johnson was clearly having a blast in fusing genres and it worked for me. Some downsides, I would have liked a little more from Daniels character (he never leaves his room) and his exit seems a little tame. Some shonky action sequences at times but I thought the Blunderbuss was a lovely touch. Great soundtrack, brilliant performance from JGL and Emily Blunt. Note: She is chopping down the stump to relieve boredom and t... More

Posted by shool at 11:43, 18 October 2012 | Report This Post

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