Looper (2012): Time After Time?


Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom), Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Pierce Gagnonย as Cid the future Rainman. It is a science fiction/thriller/action film that takes place in the year 2044 and its main plot device is time travel.

Joe (Gordon-Levitt) is a looper. Loopers, it appears, came into being right after time travel is invented in 2074. Immediately banned and made illegal by the government; the new time travel is used by huge criminal organizations as a sort of “Murder’s Inc” where “hits” are sanctioned and sent back to the past to be carried out by a looper.

So in the future hitmen become loopers and in the sense that some things never change, time travel is a criminal’s wet dream; presumably allowing more than just murder to fly the “airways.” When the target arrives in the past, he lands on a tarpaulin; hands tied behind his back and his head covered in a cloth bag.

The second he appears, the looper shoots him and rolls the body over to collect his “Judas” fee of silver bars. In an ironic twist, the loopers work for criminals from the future in the past. If you try to figure it out, you’ll just give yourself a headache. So don’t try, even Old Joe (Willis) says it’s beyond explanation (unless you use straws and salt).

In this world of murderous loopers one way to retire is when your future bosses send your future self back to be “whacked” this constitutes “closing the loop.” You get a literal golden handshake and you retire. Joe systematically does his job, learns French and relies on drugs to relieve the monotony of his existence.

When one of Joe’s fellow loopers, Seth (Dano) meets his future self, he is so shaken that he lets him escape. Seth comes to Joe for help and begs for a place to hide. Their boss Abe (Daniels) has already sent Kid Blue (Segan) to Joe’s apartment and they take Joe to see Abe. Joe then gives Seth up to Abe and gets to spend an hour with his favourite prostitute to ease his conscience.

Life goes back to “normal” which means Joe continues to kill his target at 11:30 in the morning and then go for coffee later. One day, the target is late. When it does arrive, he has no bag over his head and his hands are free. Joe is stunned and in the split second it takes him to fire his blunderbuss, his target (his future self) turns and the shot goes into the gold bars on his back.

As Joe pumps another round into the gun, Old Joe hits him with a gold bar; knocks him out and escapes. Joe awakens a bit later with a note telling him to run and catch a train out of town.

Well, it’s 11:30! Time to shoot another target.

Now here is the only spot in the film that confused me. Joe (Gordon-Levitt) returns to his apartment and in the ensuing scuffle, he falls off a fire escape and knocks himself out. We are then treated to a longish montage of Joe actually shooting “Old Joe” and then “living” his life until he marries a Chinese woman and, as Old Joe, gets taken from his house and put into the time machine for his younger self to shoot him.

I was a little confused to say the least. But it did not matter. Any film that deals with time travel is going to be confusing. There are going to be plot holes and mistakes and bits in the film where you can hear the audible sound of everyone’s chin thudding on the ground. But as Bruce Willis’s character says, “It’s doesn’t matter.”

Purists are now pulling their hair and screaming, “Yes, it does matter damn it. What about the space time continuum, blah, blah, blah…”

I say again it does not matter; especially in the verse of this film.

I’ll explain.

Years ago the late Ray Bradbury wrote some excellent science fiction novels. The Martian Chronicles was just one example of his work; immensely popular it was made into a film (once or twice) and a television mini-series. The point about Bradbury’s work is this: when Ray told you that some astronauts took a rocket ship to Mars, that is all he told you. There was no song and dance about what powered the rocket or its payload or its dimensions. It was not pertinent to the story.

Now if you wanted science fiction that was all about the “science” you read Issac Asimov or one of his peers who would gladly give you all the science you might require from your Sy Fy story. The books by either author were equally entertaining but, both were written from a different point of view.

I always leaned more toward Bradbury’s stuff, because I like a good story and I don’t need to know how many booster rockets are needed to get out of the earth’s atmosphere. I feel the same way here about Looper. It’s story about time travel, I don’t need a lot of dithering about with someone trying to explain every little nut and bolt about it. It just is; and I’m fine with that.

The film was vastly entertaining. Even though I did have some problem with Emily Blunt being in yet another movie (I mean, come on guys, is she the only actress available at the moment or what) and as much as I adore Bruce Willis, he also seems to be in a lot this year.

It would probably be easier to list films that Emily Blunt has not been in this year.

Of course this is the third time that the team of Johnson and Gordon-Levitt have worked together. They are starting to look a bit like the Burton/Depp combination; let’s hope that they don’t wind up as stale.

But I have got to say that although I was a bit “freaked out” by the prosthetics used on Gordon-Levitt’s face to make him resemble a young Willis, I was impressed by the fact that Joseph has Bruce’s speech pattern and phrasing down perfectly. I really believed that he could be a younger version of Willis. Very, very impressive to say the least.

The film moves at break neck speed and shows a future that is bleak and violent and (like The Divide’s setting) dirty and hopeless. Joe’s existence before he meets Old Joe is a series of events that all run together fuelled by drugs and emptiness. Despite this depressing background, the movie manages to look like what we imagine the world to look like in 21 years.

I do have to say that I’m impressed that Rian managed to get a “hover cycle” into the film.

My final verdict is that this was a cracking film and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll say it’s definitely a 5 star film worth watching and that I’m sorry I missed this at the cinema.

Bruce looks as upset as I am about the hoverbike not working.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

20 thoughts on “Looper (2012): Time After Time?”

  1. I seem to be fairly alone on this but I didn’t love Looper. I did enjoy it but I just didn’t really care about either Joe, it didn’t bother me what happened to them. I also thought the TK felt tacked on just to facilitate the ending. It was a really intriguing idea though and an interesting take on time travel even if it completely blows my mind trying to make sense of it, as is always the case with time travel films.

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    1. As much as I love time travel themes they can be fairly irritating, especially if you play spot the plot hole. Valid point about the TK, but I did love the fact that in the film everyone got excited about the emergence of it only to find that floating coins was as far as it got. Great little touch. But as always dude, great points made and thanks for sharing them. Cheers mate! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. Watched this at home my Lady. (I gotta send a letter to Willis and ask him if he has a couple of million dollars he doesn’t need … does ANYBODY get more work than this guy?? He must make 6 films a year. But he’s good at most everything he does sooo … carry on Bruce.) These time travel can really boggle the mind a bit … one does wonder at the possibilities? The performance by the kid was remarkable, but I truly wondered at what that experience must have been like for him in such a heavy movie and such a lot of blood and all. (“Don’t worry Jimmy, it’s not real blood. Just the vomit.) Was interesting to see Jeff Daniels as a bad guy. Worth a see … will watch again some day.

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  3. I am a a total time travel junkie. Actually, both of us are. We’ve been waiting for this to come to cable or DVD, having missed it in the theater (meant to go, it just got away from us, or maybe we had no money at the time). So this one IS on our list.

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  4. Great review. I saw this at the theater with two friends. After the movie end, me and one of my friends couldn’t stop talking about how amazing it was, but then the other friend started calling it the worst movie of the year. I guess it’s one of those movies where you love it or you hate it, there’s not really an in-between. Glad you enjoyed it. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Funny, the first review I read for this film was all about the plot holes and how the time travel could possibly work that way, blah, blah, blah. I thought it was a great film and really enjoyed it, glad to hear that I’m not alone in that! Cheers mate!! ๐Ÿ˜€

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      1. A lot of people bash the movie and say that it’s gross having Joe have sex with his mother, which is a real head scratcher because Emily Blunt isn’t his mom.

        I’ve been trying to get my brother to buy the DVD so he can watch it, but he doesn’t believe me when I say it’s a good movie.

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      2. There seems to be an attitude where people love to bash a film knowing nothing about it. It is very puzzling to say the least. I was surprised to see that both IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes both rated the film quite high yet everyone I spoke to really trashed the film. Odd.

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      3. Brick is a brilliant film. Another one recommended by my daughter and the best example of modern teen noir I’ve ever seen. Great film by a great director, it is no surprise that Looper was so good. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      4. Your daughter seems to have a great taste in movies. I hope my future children (if I ever have any) like movies and can tell me what to watch. ๐Ÿ˜›

        I have a feeling that Rian Johnson could be the next big director. I’d love to see that as long as he continues to push out quality movies.

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  5. Glad you liked it. I know when the lights went up and the final credits rolled, my wife and I both looked at each and at the same time and said, “wow!”

    Looking forward to rewatching this on Blu-ray.

    Great review.

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