brick, bruce willis, emily blunt, george orwell, joseph gordon levitt, looper, paul dano, pierce gangon, piper perabo, rian johnson, science fiction
Grade: B+ (RENT IT)
“IF YOU WANT a vision of the future,” George Orwell once remarked, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” If that’s a grim forecast, it’s also a strikingly apropos one in relation to “Looper,” a dystopic sci-fi flick from writer-director Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “The “Brothers Bloom”). It’s the second best science fiction film of 2012, after the even loopier “Prometheus.”
The face-stamping boot in “Looper” belongs to Bruce Willis (old Joe), a contract killer working for a crime syndicate in the future, who returns to the year 2044 to confront a younger version of himself (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Because time travel has been outlawed, young Joe is a bad guy (and a junkie), a “looper” hired to, as he puts it, “take out the future’s garbage.” He works a remote corner of a cane-field in Kansas where his victims suddenly appear, hands-tied, head-bagged, ready for a shotgun blast to the chest. The executions are carried out like clockwork until, of course, there’s a glitch in the “Terminator”-like system.
Unbeknownst to him, Joe’s bosses in the future have sent the old Joe back in time to be killed by the young Joe and effectively close the loop. We never see the evil genius known as the Rainmaker, busy sending old loopers thirty years back in time to be shot down by their former selves. Joe’s friend Seth (Paul Dano) suffers this gory fate early on in the film. Watch as a young Seth is cut down, limb by limb, in the present, his wounds materializing in the future. Don’t worry; the temporal antics of “Looper” won’t be on the test.
Johnson’s plot line is intricate whereas personal matters in “Looper” are fairly old-timey. There’s a prostitute (Piper Perabo) who keeps the young Joe drugged and confused, and, in the farm house nearby his killing floor, a single mom named Sara (a butch Emily Blunt) keeping a close watch over her precocious son Cid (Pierce Gangon). Could Cid be one of the three kids that the old Joe is dead-set on exterminating? The uncanny Gangon has special powers, which I won’t reveal here, but he could be the creepiest kid on film since the tricycle-riding Danny Lloyd in Kubrick’s “The Shining.” Blunt, meanwhile, who has the Midas touch in picking scripts, never gives a bad performance and she offers the film some much-need pathos. She shelters Joe, from old Joe and from the truth, and in the end, young Joe returns the favor in a sacrificial last act.
The only misstep in “Looper” was a needless effort to make Gordon-Levitt look like Bruce Willis. A plaster mold of Willis was cast to help the young actor resemble the iconic action film star. Fitted with a putty nose and prosthetic upper-lip, young Joe looks more like a glass-eyed Howdy Doody doll than the moonlighting star of yesteryear. And because science fiction is always already not the real world, this turns our anti-hero into something even further unreal and distracts the audience. The gun violence is gratuitous as well, and though it happens off-screen, watching children getting shot at close range threw me for a loop. It goes without saying that if the older version of myself in 2042 got in touch with me now, I’d be asking for stock tips, Super Bowl wins, Lotto numbers, and other money-making factoids, not whom to kill and when and where. But that’s the real world not the movies.
“Prometheus” aside, “Looper” could be the most inventive science-fiction film of 2012; what is your vote for best action/sci-fi film of the year thus far?
There is something about that photo of Emily Blunt holding that shotgun that is turning me on even more to this movie. This one does look promising.
TMI! Ha ha
Found your site through Fog’s. I waited to see the movie before I read anything, I think you do a disservice to the unaware by mentioning the objective of the older version of Joe in your post. It was one of the plot points which changed my attitude and focus during the story and it is at the heart of what I think the movie is really about; how can redemption be had if it comes at such a high cost? I do see the weaknesses in the storyline, but they all exist before the story gets started. If you can’t go with what you see in the carefully edited trailer, than the movie will not mean much to you. I’ll check in on some of your other posts. Always looking for more places to talk and share.
All the major reviews explains that Willis is JGL in later life and sent back to settle the score. Not sure what you mean here – thought intelligently put – but thanks! Love the JAWS icon…
When Older Joe returns, we learn that he has significantly changed his view of the world. The younger Joe is a self centered, not very pleasant criminal. He has sold out his friend for the silver he has stored up (thirty pieces?), and we see that he squanders his life in violent crime and drug use. He is redeemed by his future wife and will do anything to try to save her. Our sympathy is with him entirely, until it is revealed what it is he intends to do. That is when the redemption story of the younger Joe begins and that is the big shift in point of view that I think is undermined by sharing the older Joe’s plan. I know that if I had been aware of that earlier, I would not have seen the older Joe in one light and then shifted during the course of the story. That was my main issue. You can probably tell I am still trying to say it directly. Thanks for responding.(Stole the icon on line and use it on my blog. Jaws Perfection)
Yes, the romantic aspect of Old Joe’s life rounded things out interestingly. Thanks for the commentary; I strive *not* to spoil, so I hope I didn’t. I believe you’re taking issue (thoughtfully) with something else in my take. Just my two cents! Write on!
(Indirectly) last word in second to last sentence.
Colin there’s a reason I religiously folllow your blog. As a litrtary prof you’ve got style and a whry sense of humor I get a kick out of. Take this more indepth review of Looper. References to Howdy Doody and Wiilis, TV start Moonlighting which many under age 40 won’t get; then there’s quoting the great George Orwell which I don’t think is even taught in school anymore. Heck many think Big Brother is just a TV show created by CBS and not the chilling overseer of Orwell’s bleak view of the his present masked as the future 1984. Then you add a good word play “threw me for a loop”. The movie was very good even with JGL pancake make-up, and the reviews especially yours the best so far add to the cinema experiece. Bravo.
Ha, well shucks, thanks! I get a kick out of you wanting to review a film from the lobby of the mall. I’m 34 but I know my pop culture references. LOOPER was fun but that makeup was a mistake, for sure. The movie season is heating up for sure and LOOPER will likely get some special effects nods…write on!
I loved it! Found no weaknesses myself (posted my review http://nediunedited.com/).
It is at the core a morality play. It is a story that addresses regret and the lengths we would go to protect the ones we love. I found it original, intelligent and badass 😀 and that makes for the best kind of entertainment, in my opinion.
I appreciated that it did not shy away from the tough choices that old Joe had to make–wrong or right–it was brave of Johnson to put it out there for the audience to judge.
I think the best sci-fi films should make you think and I believe Looper succeeds in that aspect, brilliantly.
People certainly love it and I think we’ll see it come Oscar time for special FX and potentially best original screenplay (perhaps a stretch). Waiting for someone to trash it though just to see the other side. Actors strong, Blunt always, well, blunt, esp. here…write on!
I didn’t get to see this one in the theater this weekend, but I’ll have to rent it when it comes out. Prometheus would probably be my pick for best sci-fi movie this year, as well
Different films entirely, but PROMETHEUS is unforgettable; let us know what you think of LOOPER and if you spot any loopholes in the plot!
Tim The Film Guy said:
Very good film, not quite as good as I hoped but still smart and original 😀
Isn’t this the one you were anticipating back in the summer? Original, for sure, but a little TERMINATOR-ish, no?
Tim The Film Guy said:
Yeah but most time travel film follow a similar story ish, can’t be 100% be original 😀
I love time travel movies so I’ve been anticipating seeing this for ages. It will be out over here (Netherlands) at the end of November, so all the positive reviews are testing my patience 😉
Positively reviewed here in the States for sure. Original and entertaining…
Tom Austin-Morgan said:
It’s gone down really well in the UK too, I really think for fun value, it pips Prometheus to the post in the best sci-fi. It’s not particularlt smart (it’s not 12 Monkeys or Source Code), butit has all the righ elements sci-fi, horror, and some pretty badass gun fights, plus old-school morality and redemption story tropes.
That said I just watched the Blu-Ray of Prometheus and it is beautifully shot, written and acted and is a more cerebral than Looper.
Depends on the mood between these two, I think. Good article!
Oh England, obviously; should have read this first. Thanks for reading; writing on! SOURCE CODE, hmmm…not sure I grant that classic status…