Looper (2012)

Don’t we all want to be John McClane in the future?

The film revolves around a mobster (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) working for a crime syndicate in the near-future. He, along with other so-called Loopers, kill people sent from the future by their boss. Things get complicated when he recognizes one victim as his future self (Bruce Willis) and lets him escape.

Writer/director Rian Johnson‘s debut, Brick, was one of the biggest surprises in a film that I have ever seen. I went into it, expecting a crime-thriller, which is exactly what I got, but with a new twist on it that made it seem cooler and a lot more different from anything else I have ever seen prior to that. That’s why when I heard about Johnson tackling the sci-fi genre, I had no doubts whatsoever in my mind that it would be nothing short of original and different. Thankfully, that’s exactly what I got.

Most people that see the trailers for this flick will automatically get stuck in their head that it’s another confusing, sci-fi movie about time-travel. In a way, it is a sci-fi movie about time-travel, but it’s more of a twist on the crime and gangster genre than anything else. But even saying that it’s a crime and gangster genre movie is selling it short, because trust me people, this is not something you have seen before. You think you know the premise, you think you know how it’s going to play-out, and you think you know where it’s going to go, but trust me, you don’t know nothing yet and I think that’s where the fun in Johnson’s writing and directing comes from.

Anytime this movie ever seems like it’s going to go straight for the genre conventions, somehow, Johnson pulls himself straight-back from that and offers us a surprise that we were not expecting in the least-bit and even adds another secret twist/idea to the story that we didn’t already have in front of us before. This story, for some, will probably be as confusing as the meaning behind 2001, but if pay attention, if you stay with this story, and you stay with these characters, then nothing will go wrong for you at all. This is also one of those stories that I can’t go on and on about too much because the less you know about it going in, the better for you as you’re most likely going to get slapped in the face many of times with a bunch of happenings you weren’t expecting.

Johnson obviously loves having this bigger-budget and takes every great use of it with a slick look that reminded me a lot of Kubrick film, but not too much to the point of where it’s distracting, and also gave me a future that just seemed gritty and dirty, rather than over-stylized and filled with technology to the brim. There’s also a lot of sweet and stylized action scenes that will totally grab you out of nowhere, and just release you in the coolest way possible. However, it should be noted that as much action as there may be in this flick, this is not a pure, old-fashioned action flick per-se. Instead, the story takes this big twist about somewhere in the middle where things start to get a little slow, start to get a little bit more dramatic, and start to get a little talky, but it wasn’t a bad thing at all because Johnson seems like he has that perfect spark for snappy and fun dialogue that always seems interesting, no matter where these peeps may be getting at.

However, if there is a problem that I had with this change of pace half-way through the film, it’s that the characters just never came through for me. Yes, you do feel some of their sympathy throughout the film, and yes, Johnson lets them all have their different arcs but there was just that missing ingredient that wasn’t there and made me almost feel as if I was losing some sort of heart for this flick. JGL’s story (which is practically Willis’ as well), really made me root for him but the times where death was staring him straight-down in the eyes, I didn’t really know what to do or feel. The guy starts the film off as a total dickhead, just doing drugs, killing people, and stealing money, but then gets a conscience at the end and it just didn’t work for me, nor did it work for Willis’ side of the character either. Maybe I’m a heartless fool, I don’t know. But what I do know is that these characters just never really had me reaching out to them and it really bummed me out when it was all said and done.

Despite this problem with the characters, the people who play them are better than ever. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been on such a winning-streak by now that it almost seems obvious to say he kills it once again in this role, but he really does. Right when you take a first-glance at him, you’ll notice that JGL is playing a darker, more evil character than we’re used to seeing him play before and it really makes us wonder what we got ourselves into, especially since his make-up is less than subtle. However, you do get over it after awhile and just realize that this is another chance for JGL to bring out some real character emotions, and bring out a character that could really have us feeling for him when it’s all said and done. As for his “supposed” Willis impersonation, it’s not really what you think. In a way, JGL is doing certain channels of Willis and his trademarks, but it’s never to the point of where it comes off as a Frank Caliendo impression or anything. It feels real and that’s just another sign that JGL can do no wrong. Trust me, already forgot about Premium Rush.

As for Bruce Willis himself, the guy does an awesome job in a gritter and meaner role than we have seen from him in the longest time and it’s a welcome back to form for the guy because it’s been awhile. What most people will be surprised about is how Willis and JGL don’t really spend all that much time together in the film. All of their scenes take place with them rarely being near one another, and the only time where they actually do come in-contact for the first, and only real time, is this magnificent diner scene that reminded me of Heat in a way. Where Johnson goes with both of these characters though, is what really intrigued me because instead of having Willis be some, old, crotchety mentor to JGL’s young dude ways, it’s sort of the other way around where we see a guy with some level of humanity and heart, and another that just seems to have lost it after all of this time in crime and killing.

Another cast-member/character that people will be mainly surprised about is Emily Blunt as Sara, the gun-toting, tough farmer-chick that JGL hangs with for a little while. Some will be surprised to see Blunt in such a rough and ragged role for a gal that has been in many rom-coms as of late, but the surprise is well-deserved considering this girl really seems like she has something to her that works and really takes us by storm. Her character has an arc that didn’t really make me cry or love her character any more than I already did, but I like how Blunt made this character one that you feel could kick somebody’s ass when she had to, yet, still be very vulnerable at times, as well. It’s a performance that shows she’s got more to her than just looking pretty and being witty, and I look forward to seeing what type of direction this role takes her career in now.

Consensus: Though it’s not as emotionally-stimulating as some may, or may not be expecting, Looper is still very original and different in it’s own way of story-telling, character-development, and it’s numerous plot twists that really make you wonder just what the hell is going to happen at the end of this story.



  1. I love how this took a familiar sci-fi premise and made it fresh and interesting, without being confusing. It allowed us to focus on the great cast and the world Johnson created. Great review, Dan!

  2. I’ve seen the trailers and thought it had an interesting concept and premise, but I also kept thinking Terminator rehash without the Cyborg. Glad I checked out your review, now I want to see it even more.

  3. very thorough review. at times i felt the child could of been borderline cheesy but he was such a good actor. really loved your review. cant believe youre only 17. keep it up man!

  4. Great review! Can’t wait to see this movie especially for Blunt – she was so terrific in Gideon’s Daughter and My Summer of Love and lately she was wasting her talent on stupid and generic movies, hope she stops being lazy with this one.

  5. Breaking one of my rules, of not reading reviews before watching the film, I actually read your review before watching Looper 🙂 I agree with your ‘consensus’ whole-heartedly. It’s a fun film, but somewhere there’s a connection that’s missing…

  6. I totally agree with what you said about the “emotional” aspect of the film, even though the acting was good. Great review, really thorough 🙂

  7. Great assessment of the movie! I concur with not having any empathy for the characters with the exception of Sara. I really think she (Emily Blunt) was a standout in this movie; truly capturing the heart and soul of a conflicted mother. I also loved the “Twilight Zone” aspect of this movie…remember Anthony who sent people to the fields in the episode entitled “It’s A Good Life?” Thanks, Dan for a great review!
    Pam, Reel Honest Reviews

  8. I was a expecting a fun sci-fi time traveling action film. I got that, but I also got an emotionally affecting character based drama in the 2nd half. I really loved the two parts. Everything worked. Although you were less taken with the emotional aspect, you still gave it 8.5/10 so you clearly loved it anyway. Great review!

  9. I loved Brick and enjoyed Brothers Bloom, so I was really psyched to see this movie. It definitely messed with my expectations some like they did with yours. It wasn’t a straight action flick as it seemed in the trailer, and the almost separate stories of the characters initially disappointed me. The more I thought about it after, the more I realized that this was a great film. Not only did the moral ambiguity of the character and the future get to me on a visceral level, but I thought the film was an excellent blend of “Blade Runner” and “12 Monkeys.” Although the time travel elements are complex, they’re not worth spinning your wheels trying to dissect. Time travel is merely the impetus for one man’s story of redemption.

  10. Loved reading your thoughts on the film. Found myself agreeing with a lot of them. Brick came completely out of nowhere for me too. I was told to watch it by a friend who was a ridiculously massive fan and it just didn’t disappoint.

    Very astute of you to say that Looper’s more of a play on the gangster genre rather than time travel. Not read that out of any reviews yet and didn’t click it was until reading this! It felt like a Eureka moment for me 😀

    Looper was one of the few films of the year that I couldn’t stop thinking about after I left the cinema. A great looking, smart sci-fi film.

  11. Very informative review. I’m really looking forward to watching this flick in the following days. All I’ve been reading, even in the not as supportive reviews, is that the film does really have a lot of originality, which always goes a long way in my book.

  12. I really enjoyed this movie but I agree that the characters left me wanting a little more at times. I really wanted a little more to the Young Joe/Old Joe dynamic.

    The diner scene definitely reminded me of Heat.

    Great review!

  13. I’ve been hearing only raves about this film, and your review just made me want to see it even more! I’m wagering it’s going to get Oscar noms for original writing and best makeup.

  14. Great review! I find it interesting that you didn’t connect emotionally with the story, I might be trying to defend it now but bare with me. Would it be possible in a way that you were lost in the paradox of not knowing how to approach Joe as a coherent character? (I in some ways explain this in my review) Joe is a conflict of good and bad, hero and villain in itself so I do think that it might in some cases distance the viewer from sympathizing too much. I felt this when Joe really ended the loop because I didn’t cry (and I usually cry like a girl) – maybe Joe was not supposed to get to you because the heart was between Sara and Cid? Just a thought or you know, attempt to protect Looper as it was awesome! 😀

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