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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: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

I'm pretty sure you knew what I meant anyway. It's a large scale sci-fi action film that stars Bruce Willis. It's gonna' be very popular I would expect. It's pretty 'blockbustery'. I'd also like to add that I agree Bruce didn't seem up to much for the whole film, he didn't really do anything. ... More

Posted by Coyleone at 19:59, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

sorry, but its not a sci fi blockbuster, granted it is on 'a big screen' in cinemas but it aint mainstream enough to be a blockbuster. and surely as in my ealrlier spoiler post someone else winced at brucies expressions whilst hes SPOLIER, SPOILER,!!! dangling in the air! i swear hes grinning!, poor acting. Also the effects were poor, the hover bike especially going through the corn field. i think the 5 star reviewers have just got a JGL crush L: Coyleone Looper was good, really good a... More

Posted by mclane1 at 18:37, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

Looper was good, really good actually, but it wasn't brilliant. Really liked the plot, thought JGL was great, especially in mimicking Bruce's mannerisms and such. The action scenes were really not that great though, and almost felt half hearted to me. Loved the first half of the film more than the second, although some of the scenes with the kid were pretty great (think you'll know the ones I mean if you've seen it). Someone said a few posts back that the some of the camera work and editing was... More

Posted by Coyleone at 17:32, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

L: bennyboy1971 LER***********ell, kind of a spoilerish thought anyway: do you think the little kid - who's a dab hand at electronics - would have gone on to be the one who invents time travel, so he can save his mom? And therefore by doing what he does, Joe actually kills both himself and his Bruce Willis self, but also the whole concept of time travelling for everyone? ossibly, but I don't think so. The film suggests that time travel and the 'looping' method of criminal disposal wa... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 16:34, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

LER***********ell, kind of a spoilerish thought anyway: do you think the little kid - who's a dab hand at electronics - would have gone on to be the one who invents time travel, so he can save his mom? And therefore by doing what he does, Joe actually kills both himself and his Bruce Willis self, but also the whole concept of time travelling for everyone? ... More

Posted by bennyboy1971 at 16:31, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

**Spoilers!** Loved it, really can't find much to complain about in all honesty, thought it was tight, performed well and decently put together. The time travel logistics are quite frankly mind boggling when you start to think about them, but I still think they hold up pretty well. The cynic in me likes to think that these looping timeline scenarios eventually bite you in the arse and come full circle, regardless of how much you try to alter their course. Triangle covers similar groun... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 16:01, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

In the very early stages of the film the rules are laid out about what time travel is and what it's used for. If you accept the rules at face value then there is a clever and twisty slice of sci-fi to be enjoyed. It makes a nice chage for a major sci-fi blockbuster to focus on the concept it's exploring rather that the fx and gun fights. there is a major plot event that you'll twig a mile off, but there are so many little distracting details along the way that you won't mind too much the ... More

Posted by blackduck at 15:26, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

Loved 'Looper'. But Bruce Willis has got old. It made me sad. I want to watch '12 Monkeys' again now. ... More

Posted by bennyboy1971 at 09:56, 01 October 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Really 5*

Terminator1/2+12 Monkeys+Timecop+Back to the Future1/2+X Men3+Witness+Shining any more? also did any one catch any Bruce Willisisums? - i noticed the vest, a 'mofo'... mustve been a few more ... More

Posted by jackcarter at 14:57, 30 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Really 5*

ERS**horoughly enjoyed it. Great production design, and JGL had some of Willis' mannerisms down so well it was quite spooky at times (and I thought the prosthetics really worked). Definitely agree about it being the best thing that Willis has done for a while. The movie does take a bit of a strange shift tonally after the TK element of the child becomes a major plot point (and the revelation that Blunt's kid is The Rainmaker is guessed before the film reveals it), almost pulling it from one ge... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 14:37, 30 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

I thought it was more a case of the Rainmaker being so all-powerful at that point in time that concealing deaths/disposing of bodies is unnecessary (since presumably he's not afraid of the police or whatever). Bruce does make reference to mass executions as well, which would reinforce the idea. ... More

Posted by Olaf at 13:01, 30 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

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 TRAVEL has to be used, why is BruceJo... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 11:21, 30 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

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 TRAVEL has to be used, why is BruceJo... More

Posted by Castor Troy at 08:10, 30 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

Yeah, excellence bordering on magnificence. High-concept self-prescribed rules of the Matrix meets a wistful countrified Shane. Sounds awful but Rian Johnson is so concrete in his scenes that I as a viewer have confidence and belief of where he's taking this. Looper on paper is a constant massive tonal and genre shift that should make for a confused mess. The fact that it's so forthright and articulate on a scene-for-scene basis makes this recurrent exchange in sensibilities so exciting and... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 04:37, 30 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

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 TRAVEL has to be used, why is BruceJoe's Chinese wife killed so bl... More

Posted by homersimpson_esq at 23:14, 29 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

Time travel doesn't worK. But still liked it a lot. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 18:48, 29 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

So in the future they have floating motorbikes but no chainsaws on farms to get rid off tree trunks! And in a busy, overpopulated city in the future a hospital only has 3 births on a particular day! But apart from that I really enjoyed it. Its not my favourite film of the year but it was amazing. Maybe a bit overlong especially in the secound half when the plot spins off on a tangent and in a certain scene there should be a loud honking noise and subtitles in capitals going ITS HIM,... More

Posted by Greggieboy at 12:06, 29 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

HUGE SPOILERS FOR THE ENDING; DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THE INVISI-TEXT THING, SORRY! Saw Looper last night on huge Omnimaxx screen, looks amazing given that (I'm assuming) the budget wasn't of Avengers proportions. First thing I need to say is that it's terrifically entertaining, 4* at least. I'd just say go and see it, prepare to be impressed, slightly confused, and stimulated with thoughts and possibilities (always the sign of a successful film). Rather than write an ... More

Posted by BelfastBoy at 09:13, 29 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

SPOILERS ....................................................... ....................................................... ....................................................... ............................................. Bruce killing the kid's mum is what turns him into the Rainmaker in this rewritten permutation of the event (though the fact that JGL is the one who narrates that sequence makes me think that it's more just what he 'sees' as ... More

Posted by Olaf at 00:49, 29 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

L: jcthefirst Good first hour, establishing the world, and the loops. Second hour is pretty dull, and sadly becomes every time travel movie ever, and you can see the resolution and the reasoning behind it, coming a mile off. MASSIVE MASSIVE ENDING SPOILERS (highlight to read) irly obvious to everyone that Bruce Willis killing the kid's mum is what messes the kid uo enough to become the Rainmaker, so of course JGL will kill himself/Bruce to prevent this happening. ND MASS... More

Posted by Boring Prophet at 23:56, 28 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

Good first hour, establishing the world, and the loops. Second hour is pretty dull, and sadly becomes every time travel movie ever, and you can see the resolution and the reasoning behind it, coming a mile off. MASSIVE MASSIVE ENDING SPOILERS (highlight to read) irly obvious to everyone that Bruce Willis killing the kid's mum is what messes the kid uo enough to become the Rainmaker, so of course JGL will kill himself/Bruce to prevent this happening. ND MASSIVE MASSIVE ENDING SPOI... More

Posted by jcthefirst at 23:14, 28 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

Prior to the release of his long-awaited third feature, Brick director Rian Johnson had commented on being influenced by Christopher Nolan’s Inception, which indeed has a long lasting appreciation. Because of Nolan’s brain-scrambling masterpiece, there has been an array of intelligent sci-fi from greats like Duncan Jones’ Source Code to not-so-greats like Andrew Niccol’s In Time. Following dreamscapes and time-living, time travel is given a fresh and exciting approach, thanks to Johnson’s lates... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 20:46, 28 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

L: waltham1979 I haven't seen the film yet...or the full trailer yet for that matter ] yesterday when I was chasing after school children with a box of puppies I saw a big giant bill board poster of it and I liked that so I am going to rate the film 6 out of 5...although the poster ] gone over The Dark Knight Rises poster that was up there before and ] gave me my daily fix of man-crush Bale, so on that basis I am going to award the film 2 out of 5. just heard one of those radio t... More

Posted by jackmansgirl at 13:02, 28 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Great fun, not quite as intelligent as it thinks it is, though.

L: waltham1979 L: jobloffski Ah, me so sensitive todayote] I wasn't taking the piss out of you...c'mere and gimme a hug jobloffski ould you like a puppy?? ote] Tried 'em. Too crunchy... ... More

Posted by jobloffski at 08:03, 28 September 2012 | Report This Post


RE: Looper

Hi ther new to the forum. Seen this on monday and loved it even ma missus enjoyed who ie not a. Sci fi fan. Performance by all actors were great and don't know what people are moanin bout with the nose I thought jgl looked great. Been to cinema 3 times this year for avengers rises and this and been very entertained by them all and with taken 2 and hobbit comin 2012 will be a great year for cinematic experiences. Oh agree with many this review is odd whilst reading it seemed Kim did not like... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by adamg88 at 18:44, 27 September 2012 | Report This Post


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