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Looper (2012)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

LOOPER (2012)

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo

Written and Directed By: Rian Johnson

The Short Version

Looper is not the movie you’re expecting.

With that said, as long as you don’t mind giving your movies some thought, it’s better.

It’s also somewhat more gruesome than you might expect, on multiple levels.

Looper begs to be compared to other films; resist the temptation.

Want an interesting wrinkle on time travel?  Try Looper.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

BRIE SERVED ON BAGUETTE SLICES.

It’s cheese that you think about first.


Pairs Well With...

TEQUILA.

If anything can throw most people for a loop, it’s tequila.

“Where did you get this number?”


Having watched the trailers and such, I had a very definite set of expectations in mind when I walked into the theatre to see Looper today.

Looper was absolutely not the movie that I was expecting.  It was better.

I was expecting a reasonably straight-up sci fi action flick that just happened to involve the mafia and time travel with perhaps a little Philip K. Dick flair to it, given the smarts implied by the casting.  Instead, what I saw was definitely not a straight-up sci fi action flick, but rather, a much more thoughtful sci fi action flick that plays down those two elements as much as possible even as it readily employs them, with everything being in the very definite service of a complex story that gives deep consideration to some of the abstract effects of backward time travel… so long as one can readily accept a rather unlikely premise.  I can, I did, and I’m impressed.

Our story takes place in the year 2042.  Time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it in thirty years, it will be, and it will be illegal from the word “go.”  The technology is controlled by mobsters, who use it as a means of cleanly disposing of people they want to make dead.  Apparently, it’s really hard to kill someone in the future without getting caught – something to do with being able track down bodies – so the gangsters instead kidnap their victims, drop them into a time machine, and send them back thirty years to be killed and disposed of by assassins waiting at the point of their arrival.  These assassins are called Loopers, and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Dark Knight Rises) is one of them.

There is, of course, a catch.  The Loopers are employed with the strict understanding that eventually, they will be required to “close the loop” by killing their future selves.  Normally, they don’t know until after the deed is done: victims arrive with sacks over their heads, and the killings are supposed to occur at the very instant of said victims’ arrival.  It is only when the Looper sees that he has been paid in gold instead of silver – for his payment is always made in precious metal strapped under his victim’s clothing – that he knows what he’s done, at which point he also knows that he has been released from service to enjoy the next thirty years of his life.  For most Loopers, this goes without a hitch, and Joe has no qualms about doing the deed as promised when his own time comes.

But Future Joe (Bruce Willis, The Expendables 2) has other plans.  He’s not about to let his loop be closed; he’d rather save his own life, thanks.  His whole life…

One critic’s device that you’ll only see me employ only on the very rarest of occasions is the “pitch meeting comparison,” i.e. “Movie X is Movie Y meets Movie Z!”  The reason for this is simple: that type of comparison usually drives me nuts.  And yet, if any movie I’ve seen of late has just begged for that kind of comparison, it’s Looper.  Specifically, it begs to be the answer to the following question:

“What if M. Night Shyamalan made The Terminator with a splash of Carrie thrown in?”

Mind you: just because Looper begs for it, that doesn’t mean that you or I should actually do it.  In fact, we shouldn’t, because this movie deserves much better than that.  It is very much its own piece of work, and it is, indeed, a piece of work that is very much worth your time and attention to consider on its own merits.

Let’s start with the look and feel of the film, which provided my first big surprises.  Instead of being a general ‘grit pit’ or ‘the stainless steel kitchen of the future,’ the year 2042 as presented in Looper is reasonably plausible.  It looks and feels like a natural evolution of both society and architecture, and plays as being as recognizable to an audience of today as the modern world would be to an audience from thirty years in our own past.  Some things are different, some things are the same; indeed, even as we travel thirty years further into the future, it still plays like natural evolution.  With the exception of a single “motorcycle” and the time travel mechanism itself, the production team’s “inner geek” is very much held in check and not allowed to go overboard.  Instead – in what is a very rare feat for this kind of film – they get it exactly right.

Even more surprising to me, though, was the extent to which Looper earns its “R” rating.  Based on the previews, I was expecting a reasonably “soft R,” but that is definitely not the case here.  Indeed, the word that kept coming to mind as I watched the film was “gruesome.”  This is not to say that Looper is a blood-and-gorefest – far from it – but it doesn’t shy away from the stuff, either.  When people get taken out with a blunderbuss, bits fly off.  When physical messages need to be sent across the waves of time… well, I’m not going to spoil the fun, but at least one of those scenes would do any horror movie proud.  And it’s not just the violence and its physical effects that come across as gruesome; for a very long time, that word is as good as any for describing the overall mood of the film, as well.  Again, I don’t want to spoil things, but you will be surprised at the lengths to which these characters will go to accomplish their objectives.  Consider this your warning that Looper is never going to qualify as the “feel good movie of the year.” 

But that’s fine, because Looper doesn’t need to be; indeed, if it lightened up, its real impact would be diluted, and that would be a shame.  Dark though it may be, that darkness is in service to a very interesting story that makes a serious go at the considering certain implications of backward time travel.  It’s this thoughtfulness that elevates Looper to the status of being a Very Good Film, even though it may turn off some people who just wanted that soft actioner modern Hollywood has conditioned them to expect.  It’s so thoughtful, in fact, that I can’t tell you why; just know that I’m encouraging you to see it for yourself and find out.

All you have to do is let go of the fact that the premise upon which this very thoughtful and interesting story is based is, frankly, ridiculous.  Time travel is only available to the mob?  Maybe.  The best thing they can think of to do with it is send marks back to be shot and disposed of, because it’s too dangerous to kill people and hide bodies in the future?  What?  Never mind, folks; let it go.  You’ve accepted more ridiculous premises before (let’s face it: you watched The Avengers, didn’t you?), and this is one case where a very substantial building stands successfully on a bed of sand.  Keep an open mind, and you will be rewarded.

Besides, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis do know how to rock a house when given the chance, and Looper gives them lots of chances.

Bottom line, Looper may not be the movie that many people are expecting, but it is a damn good one.  Just don’t ask too many questions about the premise, and enjoy how this otherwise thoughtful script tackles much more interesting questions about the natures of time travel and hitmen.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2012


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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