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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Bruce Willis
Emily Blunt.
Directors
Rian Johnson.
Screenwriters
Rian Johnson.
Running Time
118 minutes

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Looper
Time To Kill


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Plot
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).


Review
Looper
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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.


Verdict
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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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Looper
Empire Star Rating

RE: WTF?

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 tension not because ... More

Posted by talpacino at 11:42, 18 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

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 tension not because she doesn't have a chainsaw... More

Posted by Keyser Sozzled at 22:37, 17 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

I felt important to indicate that I liked this review. Kim Newman didn't just give us background information, but also thought about the whole feature film. Keep thinking and do not stop genuine analysis. Truly, I f***ing don't care how many stars have been given, cause that's not the point. It's simply an indicator not to be taken for granted. Good film, not perfect or robust - if I can say it in that way -, plot and ground of story are intriguing but at once constrained. As for me, I d... More

Posted by szoni at 11:05, 16 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: musht 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 fi... More

Posted by the anomaly at 23:34, 15 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Yeah makes you cross-eyed to think about stuff too much. Bloody great though. Glad I watched this instead of sulking in my hotel room. ... More

Posted by shool at 23:10, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: shool L: Hood_Man L: shool Or why not kill them first and then just send the body back in time. Bloody excellent film though. Loved it. 4 stars for me. e honest I assumed that these implanted tracking devices had health monitors in them, like a simple heart monitor for example. Heart stops, tracking device activates, authorities are alerted. It seems too specific to me for someone to be captured alive and sent back in time for murdering when, as you sa... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 23:08, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: Hood_Man L: shool Or why not kill them first and then just send the body back in time. Bloody excellent film though. Loved it. 4 stars for me. e honest I assumed that these implanted tracking devices had health monitors in them, like a simple heart monitor for example. Heart stops, tracking device activates, authorities are alerted. It seems too specific to me for someone to be captured alive and sent back in time for murdering when, as you say, they could just... More

Posted by shool at 23:02, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: shool Or why not kill them first and then just send the body back in time. Bloody excellent film though. Loved it. 4 stars for me. e honest I assumed that these implanted tracking devices had health monitors in them, like a simple heart monitor for example. Heart stops, tracking device activates, authorities are alerted. It seems too specific to me for someone to be captured alive and sent back in time for murdering when, as you say, they could just be murdered right th... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 22:58, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

I have to be honest, I don't see cinemas allowing people to bring in MP3 players so they can listen to a commentary track. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 22:44, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Or why not kill them first and then just send the body back in time. Bloody excellent film though. Loved it. 4 stars for me. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shool at 22:36, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Just had a random thought, when they send these victims back in time why not just drop them into a volcano and cut out the middle man entirely? I love time travel films, even if only for these questions ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 19:39, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: musht The real question is how he became Rainmaker in the original timeline without future Joe to kill his mother, but that's all timey-wimey and confusing so probably best to ignore it lthough it makes my nose bleed, I think that there are multiple loops at play that all connect - probably something to do with the "lag" that Old Joe experiences when his past gets changed, meaning that there is enough of a gap between loops for one to have affected another despite a brain-explo... More

Posted by FoximusPrime at 16:54, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

He's very powerful. You can see the mass destruction he's caused on the TV screen Old Joe's wife is watching in the Shanghai sequence... ... More

Posted by Gretzky at 16:21, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Also how powerful can the rainmaker actually be? Were told he's an all powerful super crimelord...but in a world were the authorities have so much control that killing is almost impossible to get away with he can't be all that powerful. ... More

Posted by blackduck at 15:00, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

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... More

Posted by musht at 11:45, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Why did they send Loopers back to themselves to kill ? Why didn't they send them back to OTHER Loopers to kill ? No-one would be none the wiser and they could save themselves a shit load of money. ... More

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 08:36, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

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. He hasnt ruled the wor... More

Posted by the anomaly at 00:23, 10 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Gotta admit that that was some pretty damn impressive back-pedalling regarding the libellous remarks, though. If he didn't want to "single out Empire", nor imply that that's what happened here, why the hell would you mention it in this thread in the first place? could be wrong, but I've yet to see a single film be praised by this guy, so... like has been said. Obvious troll is obvious. ... More

Posted by AxlReznor at 16:24, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Yeah i've been thinking batspider was a troll ever since i saw his posts about the dark knight rises, this just assures it. Either that or he's just a massive, moronic, prick. ... More

Posted by giggity at 16:18, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

Obvious troll is obvious. Blocked. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 14:32, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: MonsterCat L: BatSpider I also think it's a stupid and cowardly movie in that it had absolutely nothing to say about anything. I don't think that really matters in the grand scheme of things. If the movie like Looper works on an purely entertaining level then it's done its job. But hey, it obviously didn't work for you on that level, and that's fine. Besides, you didn't answer my question: Am I stupid for enjoying the fuck out of Looper? I reckon your enj... More

Posted by BatSpider at 14:27, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: BatSpider I also think it's a stupid and cowardly movie in that it had absolutely nothing to say about anything. I don't think that really matters in the grand scheme of things. If the movie like Looper works on an purely entertaining level then it's done its job. But hey, it obviously didn't work for you on that level, and that's fine. Besides, you didn't answer my question: Am I stupid for enjoying the fuck out of Looper? ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 14:19, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

gonna tell it like it is, because some movies are marketed with basically false advertisingquote]What I can do is encourage people to be a bit more demanding.ell, aren't you the big hero? ritates me is when a supposed smaller 'quality' movie gets hyped up with overpraise and turns out to be rubbish. That's when I feel that someone else shoved their opinion onto me. o in other words...you don't like it when the opinion of others doesn't tally with yours. Gotcha. ... More

Posted by matty_b at 14:12, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: shool L: BatSpider There's often an agenda to some movie reviews, whether it's a brown paper envelope, trying to appear hip, etc. nd this is Libel. Are you really suggesting Empire gets a back hander for its reviews? I'd be careful how you respond. Or could it be that the reviewer actually really liked the movie? ruv, read closely and you'll notice I didn't single out Empire, and I didn't say all reviews, and I didn't say it's happening now. Brown paper envelo... More

Posted by BatSpider at 14:08, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: BatSpider OMG, WTF? There you go driving your Russian WW2 tank over my a$$ again. You know what? It's simple. Kimbob, Empire, and other media outlets depending on movie interest/revenue to justify their existence praised this one to the high heavens. There's often an agenda to some movie reviews, whether it's a brown paper envelope, trying to appear hip, etc. They've obviously got the loudest voice by far and THEY'RE SHOUTING THAT WE SHOULD LIKE IT BECAUSE IT'S 5 STARS. Is that f... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 12:57, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


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