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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: RE:

L: horribleives What's 'the surprise everyone will see coming' mentioned in the review? hat the kid (Cid) turns out, in 30 years time, to be the dreaded Rainmaker - unless, thanks to the film's convoluted take on time travel, Joseph Gordon Levitt manages to change things. ... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 12:45, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: BatSpider L: MonsterCat L: BatSpider Another movie media packaged to be 'clever' ... for dimwits. There you go again with this snobbery horse crap. I mean, you're entitled to dislike it, but you're doing yourself no favours by being so unpleasant about those who actually dare to have the temerity to enjoy Looper. Hey, I really liked the flick, and even it is a little bit muddled and not particularly original, I liked that Rian Johnson actually bothered to m... More

Posted by blackduck at 12:29, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

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? ... More

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


RE: WTF?

L: MonsterCat L: BatSpider Another movie media packaged to be 'clever' ... for dimwits. There you go again with this snobbery horse crap. I mean, you're entitled to dislike it, but you're doing yourself no favours by being so unpleasant about those who actually dare to have the temerity to enjoy Looper. Hey, I really liked the flick, and even it is a little bit muddled and not particularly original, I liked that Rian Johnson actually bothered to make a film that requir... More

Posted by BatSpider at 11:44, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: musht I also suspected this and was surprised it was never confirmed. I think one was just more experienced than the other which makes sense, I had no trouble believing d Blue could grow up to be Jeff Daniel's characterugh if it was the case I thought you might see more reaction from Daniels given his memories would be changing just like Willis's were. b]SPOILERS sly): I briefly suspected this but, not only does the fact that Kid Blue was a buffoon suggest he doesn't becom... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FoximusPrime at 11:17, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

I really can't decide whether I like this movie or not.........saw it on Friday and I'm still mulling it over in my head. Which isn't a bad thing. Like many people, it wasn't what I was expecting, there were some bits I liked and there was some bits I felt a bit ' Meeah ' And obviously with a time travel movie you open up the whole paradox of time travel ' if's ' and ' buts ' The Kyle Reece conundrom if you will. I think maybe I need to see it again /5 for me at this stage. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Happy Shrapnel at 09:12, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

really liked the flick, and even it is a little bit muddled and not particularly original, I liked that Rian Johnson actually bothered to make a film that requires its audience to keep up with it. Does this make me a dimwit? Seriously, I'm actually interested. Or do you get some kind of pleasure from looking down at people who like the stuff that you don't like? t's because some people are so insecure about their own opinions and the fact that they can't even critique properly, that they result... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by matty_b at 07:59, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: WTF?

L: BatSpider Another movie media packaged to be 'clever' ... for dimwits. There you go again with this snobbery horse crap. I mean, you're entitled to dislike it, but you're doing yourself no favours by being so unpleasant about those who actually dare to have the temerity to enjoy Looper. Hey, I really liked the flick, and even it is a little bit muddled and not particularly original, I liked that Rian Johnson actually bothered to make a film that requires its audience to keep... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 01:59, 09 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

What's 'the surprise everyone will see coming' mentioned in the review? ... More

Posted by horribleives at 23:52, 08 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Evil_Bob L: Tafferel SPOILERS L: BelfastBoy L: homersimpson_esq MAJOR SPOILER I have an issue with one gaping plot hole. The entire premise is based around the idea that it is hard to dispose of bodies in the future. There are tracking issues - this is mentioned in the voiceover. It's the entire point of having to send people back in time. So, if it's so damned hard to kill som... More

Posted by musht at 14:36, 07 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

L: Tafferel SPOILERS L: BelfastBoy L: homersimpson_esq MAJOR SPOILER I have an issue with one gaping plot hole. The entire premise is based around the idea that it is hard to dispose of bodies in the future. There are tracking issues - this is mentioned in the voiceover. It's the entire point of having to send people back in time. So, if it's so damned hard to kill someone, if it's such a ... More

Posted by Evil_Bob at 00:14, 06 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

SPOILERS L: BelfastBoy L: homersimpson_esq MAJOR SPOILER I have an issue with one gaping plot hole. The entire premise is based around the idea that it is hard to dispose of bodies in the future. There are tracking issues - this is mentioned in the voiceover. It's the entire point of having to send people back in time. So, if it's so damned hard to kill someone, if it's such a problem that TIME TRA... More

Posted by Tafferel at 13:11, 05 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

L: Evil_Bob L: MonsterCat L: Evil_Bob The second half is ponderous and slow as all hell ther opinions are just as valid of course, but I've read this criticism many times before and I just don't get it. The movie as a whole runs at a good, even pace. Because as soon as he gets to that bloody farm the movie (which until that moment had been barrelling along at breakneck speed) comes screeching to a halt, changes genres, then takes off slowly but surely to the ... More

Posted by waltham1979 at 12:36, 04 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

L: MonsterCat L: Evil_Bob The second half is ponderous and slow as all hell ther opinions are just as valid of course, but I've read this criticism many times before and I just don't get it. The movie as a whole runs at a good, even pace. Because as soon as he gets to that bloody farm the movie (which until that moment had been barrelling along at breakneck speed) comes screeching to a halt, changes genres, then takes off slowly but surely to the unsatisfying end. ... More

Posted by Evil_Bob at 04:01, 04 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: More Bruce Willis please!

An enjoyable and surprisingly dark time travel flick that certainly has intelligence but is nowhere near as original as it thinks it is and suffers from some odd pointless elements such as telekinesis. Excellent performances though and a pleasent surprise to have a fairly good film from Johnson. 7/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:11, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: what? (spoilers)

L: tysmuse I am not understanding the love for Looper whatsoever. Zero surprises. Slow third act. And plot holes/questions galore! (why bother sending a looper back to be killed by the same looper, just send them to someone else for execution. How exactly does the future communicate with the past to set up the killings? If killing in the future is SUCH a big difficulty, then why does bruce willis wife get shot by bad guys without any 'oh no, whoops, we've properly fucked up'?? Why di... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 10:18, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

L: Evil_Bob The second half is ponderous and slow as all hell ther opinions are just as valid of course, but I've read this criticism many times before and I just don't get it. The movie as a whole runs at a good, even pace. ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 00:35, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

The first half of the film is masterful The second half is ponderous and slow as all hell The Telekinesis/Akira element of the thing didn't work for me at all. I liked the fact that it tried to throw several different sci-fi movie tomes together but I think it over-reached a bit. ... More

Posted by Evil_Bob at 00:28, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

I really enjoyed this film. JGL was sublime as usual and you get used to the nose eriously his acting is fantastic. His facial movements, physical movements, the way he spoke were so similar to Willis. Willis and the rest of the cast were good too, but this film is Joseph Gordon-Levitt's. 5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ref at 00:18, 03 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

L: MonsterCat This movie is fucking badass. Why can't we have more films like this that requires you to think? lad you liked it, it'll be mine on blu ray eventually. ... More

Posted by vad3r at 23:39, 02 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: what? (spoilers)

SPOILER ALERTS L: tysmuse I am not understanding the love for Looper whatsoever. Zero surprises. Slow third act. And plot holes/questions galore! (why bother sending a looper back to be killed by the same looper, just send them to someone else for execution. r if it's a loyalty thing? Being given gold as a reward instead of the usual silver for instance. It could also prevent any sort of resentment between Loopers. "You shot me you asshole!" "No I d... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 23:39, 02 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

This movie is fucking badass. Why can't we have more films like this that requires you to think? ... More

Posted by MonsterCat at 23:22, 02 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: what? (spoilers)

L: jrewing1000 L: tysmuse I am not understanding the love for Looper whatsoever. Zero surprises. Slow third act. And plot holes/questions galore! (why bother sending a looper back to be killed by the same looper, just send them to someone else for execution. How exactly does the future communicate with the past to set up the killings? If killing in the future is SUCH a big difficulty, then why does bruce willis wife get shot by bad guys without any 'oh no, whoops, we've ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 20:44, 02 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: what? (spoilers)

L: tysmuse I am not understanding the love for Looper whatsoever. Zero surprises. Slow third act. And plot holes/questions galore! (why bother sending a looper back to be killed by the same looper, just send them to someone else for execution. How exactly does the future communicate with the past to set up the killings? If killing in the future is SUCH a big difficulty, then why does bruce willis wife get shot by bad guys without any 'oh no, whoops, we've properly fucked up'?? W... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 20:38, 02 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

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. ... More

Posted by jrewing1000 at 20:36, 02 October 2012 | Report This Post


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