Movie Review : Looper (2012)

There isn't a single soul I've met that wasn't enthralled by Rian Johnson's debut feature film BRICK. His retelling of the classic hardboiled tropes in a high school setting was a tad cartoonish at times, but it packed the necessary visceral appeal to turn some heads and claim its full membership to the hardboiled club. LOOPER looked quite different, despite being still hardboiled influenced and also starring the talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It's a cyberpunk film about the mind-warping issue of time travel. While I dug LOOPER, it didn't sweep me away like BRICK did, five or six years ago. It's a quality movie that is obviously a labor of love, but it fights on too many fronts to be what is tries to be.

 Joe (Gordon-Levvitt) is a looper. A hired gun who kills people from the future. The way it works is that you kill random people that mobster bring you and collect your pay check taped on their back. It lasts until you kill your old self (hence the name). That way, bodies disappear in the past, so they're wiped off the face of the earth and so does loopers when they get old a soft. Only then you are declared retired and live however you see fit until they come for you. Loopers are starting to close the loop at a weirdly quick pace. Since Joe is a smartass and he happened to fall in love in the future, Old Joe (Willis) has it all planned. He escaped his old self and aims to kill "the rainmaker", also known as, the-dude-who-made-the-future this way.

I have an issue with films that have a particularly convoluted time-travel intrigue *. You spend so much energy trying to understand what the fuck is going on, that it suffocates your drama a bit. I don't see LOOPER being a particularly complicated film. Joe needs to kill Old Joe, because he wants to live longer and free himself from an already written future. Old Joe wants to live, because he wants young Joe to live with "future spouse" in a world without a damocles sword over their head. That's the essence of what's going on. If you want an overly complex, what-the-fuck-is-going-on time travel movie, watch DONNIE DARKO. The storyline depends on it so much, people never really debate the cool points about blind conformity that the movie makes. 

LOOPER doesn't go that far, but the time-travel is still somewhat a boulder in the living room as it's deeply interwoven with the character development. Probably why so many people found it complicated. It's just that it juggles so many different plot elements and never really makes them come together. For example, how the hell did Sara knew about the loopers and didn't try to run away with her kid while Joe slept? And why was there a sex scene between them? It's the saddest sex scene ever as it's motivated by solitude and fear. For a movie that relies on atmosphere so much, tension was deficient at times.

But that's a pet peeve of mine. Let's talk about the cool stuff, because LOOPER delivers on that front. First of all, it's a beautiful movie, where the notion of cyberpunk isn't taken overboard. It's a bizarre, angsty, deformed mirror of our present and not a deliberately eye-popping wasteland. Johnson mixes colourful scenes with gritty, urban decay (tones of grey, brown, black) and the result is visually stimulating. One thing that he could've corrected is that maybe his use of music was underwhelming. It wasn't minimalistic, it was bland.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is doing inhuman efforts to make you forget that half of his face isn't really is, but during certain scenes (especially on day time), it looks ridiculous. I also loved the play of Emily Blunt. I didn't quite understand the relevance of her character throughout most of the film, but man, is she beautiful or what? She convinced me of her troublesome, yet motherly instinct. Quick word on the underrated Paul Dano too, who plays the deadbeat and the desperate like no others. None of the cast has been outwardly bad, except maybe for Jeff Daniels who can't sell being a villain to save his life.

LOOPER also offers a fun debate on genetics and determinism. Is what going on part of a predetermined future and would you let your future self dictate what's good for you like a slightly abusive, but well-intentioned  dad would? I'm not going to spoil you the fun of going through this questioning, but I'll tell you that the ending lives up to the whole questioning. It's rare that I like an ending, but this one is worthy and doesn't spare any sensibilities. Rian Johnson is both a talented director and a superb screenwriter. LOOPER aimed for the bleachers, but it's a single with one RBI. It's a good movie, it's just not going to leave its imprint on Johnson's legacy. It lacks the cohesion to become anybody's favorite movie, but don't be surprised to see it pop in the DVD/Blu-Ray stash of a few avid collectors.


* Except maybe for LOST, because it had wacky hippy scientist, an atom bomb and clich├ęs of female characters so bad, they were actually funny.


I'm a pop culture blogger and author living in Montreal, Canada with my better half Josie and my dog Scarlett. I am a proud member of author collective Zelmer Pulp and have about a dozen of short stories published to my resume.


  1. Thought this movie was okay but not as good as people have made out. Has loads of plot holes, weird tangents and a nonsense ending. 12 Monkeys was much better.

    Brick was a great film, but Brothers Bloom sort of killed my interest in this director.

    Moody Writing

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  3. See, I didn't watch Brothers Bloom and probably won't! You make a good point thought that it's somewhat a 12 Monkeys light. It's not a ripoff, but 12M had I don't know...more life? Or should I say, a life of its own?

  4. I actually liked Emily Blunt's character, but didn't believe the connection and I felt the opposite way about Jeff Daniels...does that make sense? Probably not. It goes back to the incoherent elements I guess.

    "Joseph Gordon-Levitt is doing inhuman efforts to make you forget that half of his face isn't really is, but during certain scenes (especially on day time), it looks ridiculous." --Yes! I was distracted by this, other visuals and ill stabs of humor.

    And so I didn't think it was necessarily complicated...I would say that at times it leaned towards nonsensical.

    Now, I'm curious about this 12 Monkeys.

    ps: Brothers Bloom is no bueno--why Mark Ruffalo? why?

  5. I does make sense. If the elements aren't cohesive it's up to the viewer to make its sense. As a whole, I thought it worked, but it didn't make me dream or forget that I existed for two hours. Unlike that crazy Mel Gibson movie I was last week!

  6. I hear you on the time travel thing, where there are points that don’t seem to gel, but I think it was an unfortunate vehicle Rian chose to sell the movie when he really wanted to write an expose about morality and love, and what they have to do with each other. I found the movie intriguing and so did my wife. Interestingly though, I thought this would be a light sci-fi movie for my wife and I to watch after I got home from working at DISH, but we ended up getting cozy and settling in since it was also poignant and introspective. I like to watch movies at home sometimes so my wife and I can snuggle up on the couch. I just order the movie online, with my DISH Blockbuster @Home, and it’s ready for us to watch in full HD, on Blu-ray. I don’t have to drive to the video store or kiosk any more, and I get the best new releases sent right to my door, which is nice for when we have our date night.

  7. Thanks for the comment, Jimmy! You seem to be passionate about your DISH. Would you happen to be a community manager for them?