Now Playing: A Killer Time Travel Thriller

Like many who saw it, I fell in love with Rian Johnson’s directorial debut, ‘Brick’. Unfortunately, I found his sophomore effort ‘The Brothers Bloom’ sorely lacking. He’s directed two episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ since then, which has restored my faith a little – especially when I listened to the commentary on his episode ‘The Fly’. Apparently, Johnson had given a few of the cast and crew copies of his screenplay for ‘Looper’. Each who read it raved about it how brilliant it was. Having now seen the finished movie, they were right.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe. In 2044, time travel has not yet been invented, but will be in the near future. For some reason, in that future year, it’s impossible to dispose of a murdered body without getting caught. So, crime syndicates from the future employ people back in 2044 to dispose of the bodies for them.

Try to stay with me. When a “mark” is sent back to 2044, a “looper” (i.e. assassin) stands in a specific spot waiting for the mark to jump through time to that specific moment. Once the mark appears, the looper blasts him with an insane shotgun, removes the payment (silver bars) strapped to the mark’s back, and dumps the body into an incinerator. At one point in a looper’s career, he’ll receive gold bars rather than silver. This is called a “golden payday” or “closing the loop,” and signifies the end of the looper’s contract/career. He’s now free – but only for 30 years. Should the looper remove the final mark’s mask, he’ll find a 30-years-older version of himself. Killing the loopers 30 years in the future removes all loose ends. The syndicate stays clean and the looper gets 30 free years to blow his fortune and live however he would like. When Joe’s time comes to close the loop, something is not right and the 30-year-older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis) gets away – which is not a good thing.

I’ve tried to keep my synopsis basic, but ‘Looper’ gets quite complex. Try your best to keep up and follow along, and you’ll be fine in the end.

Although ‘Looper’ is a studio film with a mainstream-friendly sci-fi concept, the execution features many experimental and indie elements that are very refreshing. ‘Looper’ hits the ground running, but I fear that mainstream moviegoers may be disappointed by the pacing in the second half. The film doesn’t hesitate to take its time to develop a solid story and characters. It’s methodical and well thought-out, leading up to a fantastic ending.

Yet as much as I enjoyed ‘Looper’, it’s not a perfect movie. There’s something in it that could have been done better. I’ll refrain from explaining in detail, but a plot point in the second half is too familiar and played-out. An original concept like this deserves better. I believe that the screenplay could have been written in a more suitable manner, but even as-is, this nuisance leads up to the climax (which I love) so I can’t completely dislike it.

[SPOILER ALERT] Let me close with a warning. ‘Looper’ features some violence against children that many people will find highly disturbing. Content like that doesn’t typically make it into mainstream movies. [Ed.: Except ‘The Hunger Games’, of course. -JZ] Be advised. [END SPOILER]

Rating: ★★★★☆


  1. I really enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t a “classic” as all the early reviews made it out to be, but it’s a really good movie.

    With time travel movies, I tend not to pull my hair out over inconsistency inherent in the genre. This movie is more about the characters and motivations anyway with time travel as the device to set the stage.

    I’ll definitely get in on Blu-Ray. Oh and the kid that played Cid? He should get an Oscar nod for supporting actor.

  2. William Henley

    I don’t know what to make of Looper. I may need to see it a couple more times. It was just strange to me. The time-travel portion was not bad, but the whole TK thing… It was like someone took two movies that were just okay on their own, and decided to throw them together in the same script. The result is surprisingly good, but it really did feel like I was watching two movies at once.

  3. I have to admit, I’m curious to see Looper, but I’m not rushing to the cinema to see it. The plot is initially intriguing, but the idea of someone willing to kill themselves, albeit a future self, just for money, feels stupid. It might work for really dim characters as a good motivation, but if the main character isn’t supposed to be a halfwit, it makes the plot feel like a)the lead is too shallow to care about seeing or b) everything’s too contrived just to get the pieces into place.

    • William Henley

      The point is that the characters grow over time. The assasians are usually pretty young, and and like many (but not all) young people, only think about the here and now, and not so much about the future. It works.

    • He says that the job “doesn’t attract the most forward-thinking people.” Also, you don’t you killed yourself until it’s already done. Finally, Young Joe, like many of the other loopers isn’t a halfwit, but he’s also not super intelligent. He’s a drug addict. Most of these guys who do this job aren’t thinking about their future. They aren’t trained killers either. That’s why they’re given guns that will kill anything that’s 15 feet in front of them. It’s not precision or anything.

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