Looper 2012 ★★★½

Writer-director Rian Johnson made a splash with his genre mash-up debut, Brick, before struggling with his muddled sophomore effort, The Brothers Bloom. Rather than paring things back Johnson stubbornly ploughed forward with another ambitious, mind bending extravaganza. Although I’ve had to admire his playful blending of genres and styles I’ve never quite bought wholeheartedly into vision - until now.

Looper is still a film that suffers from the director’s familiar problems - too ambitious and too unfocused - but here the ambition is matched with an energy that is infectious. Rian Johnson has managed to take elements from every major, and not so major, sci-fi film of the past thirty years, stick them together and then, miraculously, made it work. Whilst you could spend the entire film spotting these references you’d end up missing the fun ride laid out before you. It is a film that takes the characters and audience on a rollercoaster, ride traveling through time, future cities and throwing in a number of familiar ‘what if’ time travel dilemmas but exploring them from unfamiliar angles.

At heart this is a big budget spectacle with an independent spirit. The special effects and film’s scale are impressive but the tricksy plotting and rules of time travel never overshadow the characters. The opening effectively, and rather brutally, establishes the world and rules of the Loopers whilst the bulk of the film is given the time to breathe and develop relationships and explore the themes. Pleasingly the film touches on some dark areas - characters you are supposed to care about push moral boundaries to the limit without losing the audience’s sympathies. Whilst there is probably less action in the film than the trailers implied when things do kick off the violence is delivered swiftly and imaginatively and unlike recent action forays it proves that Willis still can produce the goods when needed to.

The decision to put Gordon-Levitt under considerable prosthetic work is both strange and a constant, and needless, distraction. Personally I would have found it far easier to believe he was a young Willis without make-up, particularly when he still doesn’t look like a younger, hairier Bruce with it anyway. It is a shame to be taken out of the film this way when Gordon-Levitt’s performance is so good. Whilst his face might be more Sin City’s Marv the performance behind the mask is undeniably Willis. It is amazing how brilliantly he captures his co-star whilst still managing to avoid broad caricature. It is nice to see Willis in this sort of role again too even if he has less screen time than was expected.

It isn’t a flawless film - it throws in a few too many sci-fi elements that border on the silly, the ending, whilst making sense, was disappointingly predictable and it can lack focus at times - but it is bold, exciting, occasionally provocative and hits way more marks than it misses. Sometimes being over-ambitious isn’t such a bad thing.


  • I actually can't wait to see it again which rarely happens because I'm usually ready to move on to the next film, but this one really stuck with me. I don't expect everyone to feel the same way, but it was a great experience for me. I've read your review and a few others that had certain issues with the film, but none of them bothered me. It's just one of those films that ticked all the right boxes for me personally.

  • Well I hope you love it as much on a second viewing then. It is always nice to find a film you love without reservation.

  • @Travis

    I gave it 3.5 stars, too, though my review is more a discussion of spoilers than I usually try to write.

    I thought it was very good, but it's not world changing.

  • Nice review. Just saw this film.

    Unlike you, I didn't mind JGL's make-up. Personally, I thought it was very well done. Sure, he doesn't look that much like a young Bruce Willis but it didn't bother me. It was weird at first to expect to see JGL's face but then not.

    So I'm guessing all the commenters in here have seen this film.......if not, SPOILER BELOW

    So, at the end, when Joe kills himself, he is effectively doing what Bruce Willis was trying to do. He stops the Rainmaker from going on a rampage later in life and, ultimately, killing Willis' wife. Right? Willis thought that he had to kill the kid to stop it, but didn't realize that he wouldn't be able to kill the kid and he would, in the process, kill the mom and that is in fact what sets the kid off and leads to his vendetta vs. Loopers in the future. JGL figures this out..I think..and sacrifices himself...which then erases Bruce Willis....but ultimately saves the asian wife. Am I right?

    All done.

  • @Phips: Yep.

  • Thought so...


    what is everyone's thoughts on Kid Blue either being a young Jeff Daniels? many people seem to think so....

    Furthermore, did I miss something about Cid's jaw getting messed up? Or is that from when Bruce Willis shoots him?

  • Phips....I had that thought at one point to re: Kid Blue

  • For me personally this film was garbage. I want to give it another go but I have limited time and it would be more of a time waste than anything else. Sorry for dragging up this review I just came across it browsing your old reviews.

  • That's a shame, David. It's certainly flawed but I really enjoyed its energy and its central concept. Perhaps my opinion will change on a second viewing (and despite enjoying it I don't really have a great urge to see it again any time soon) but for now it was still one of the more interesting mainstream films of last year.

  • I appreciate that. My problem when j went to see it was that I was informed it was like 12 monkeys / this generations matrix. For me that kind of analogy needs to be backed up and I totally stupid. The matrix at the time was a jaw dropping and brilliant piece of cinema and the twist was crazy at the time. 12 monkeys is just very clever. I have to agree though that on another viewing I might be less critical but at the moment my disappointment is fuelled by the things which irritated me in this film.

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