Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thank Goodness For This Highly Original, Thoughtful and Excellent Sci-Fi Film: Our Review of "Looper" (2012)

Directed By: Rian Johnson 

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels

Rating: R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity, and drug content

Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

Synopsis: In the future, time travel exists but is illegal. Only the mob uses it to send marks back in time to be killed by specialized assassins called Loopers. When they want to end their contracts with their assassins, they send their older versions back to be killed by their younger versions, a practice called “closing the loop.” One looper named Joe (Gordon-Levitt) fails to do so when he recognizes his older self (Willis), accidentally letting himself escape, causing a man-hunt and possible catastrophic changes to the future.


Andrew: Hello readers! Last night Sarah and I caught an evening showing of this weekend’s highly-anticipated science-fiction movie Looper, directed by Rian Johnson and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises), Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom) and Emily Blunt (The Five-Year Engagement).

To quickly set it up, JGL plays Joe, a specialized assassin called a “looper” living in Kansas circa 2044. As Joe says in the movie, time travel hasn’t been invented yet but by 2074 it will have been and will be illegal so the only people who use it are the mafia. They send back their marks to 2044 where Joe and his fellow loopers wait for them and kill them immediately upon arrival.

One day, though, Joe hesitates to kill his mark because he recognizes him as his future self, who then escapes and the film sort of becomes a hunt between the two, though Older Joe ends up having an alternate agenda as well. We don’t want to say too much because the beauty of this movie was that…

Sarah: The marketing didn’t give, really, ANY of the story away. They lead you to believe the film is one way when it’s actually quite different, in my opinion at least.

A: Yeah, so props to people on the blogosphere and the film’s marketing department for not spoil anything. (More after the jump)

One of the best and most pivotal scenes in Looper between Old Joe (Willis) and Young Joe (Gordon-Levitt) takes place in this diner, prominently featured in the film's marketing.

S: They kept it under wraps pretty well. And I have to say I was expecting a twist because all three of the main actors have said this is one of the best movies they’ve ever been a part of. And for them to say something like that based on what we only saw in the trailers made me go, “What? Really?” A guy is supposed to kill his future self that is sent back to the past? That’s it? Ok…what’s the big deal about that?

But the way the story unfolds and the plot turns…after seeing this I have no doubt in my mind that this is what makes this the best project to work on.

A: This is an incredibly original story.

S: Very original. Very.

A: Obviously it deals with time travel and we’ve seen that done before, most notably films like Back to the Future and 12 Monkeys, and we all know time travel films always leave themselves open to plot holes, or you question stuff. And I love that this movie and Rian Johnson’s script kind of puts the kibosh on that itself.

Before we delve into the movie, I know a lot of people might have questions about plot holes, but there’s a particular scene that’s prominently shown in the trailer and commercials where Old and Young Joe are in a diner in a face-off. Well Young Joe starts asking questions and Old Joe basically shoots him down by saying, “It’s doesn’t matter.” Just telling him not to worry about it, which is effectively telling the audience not to think about it too much. I liked that.

That said, let’s delve into the actual meat and potatoes of Looper and what we thought about it.

S: I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I loved the acting, which was actually kind of scary at times watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt play Joe, because he actually LOOKS like Bruce Willis in a lot of the scenes. Obviously there were the prosthetics that helped it, but the way that he spoke, facial expressions…it was very evident that JGL and Bruce Willis worked closely together on this. JGL really wanted to do Bruce right…

A: And it’s not an exact imitation. It’s not necessarily Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Bruce Willis but he does do some mannerisms, mainly facial expressions, that are familiar to Willis. There’s one scene in particular where Young Joe is called in to a meeting with his boss and JGL keeps doing these facial expressions…

S: He purses his lips, raises his eyebrows and smirks to the side…such quintessential Bruce Willis expressions. That scene was great!

A: The makeup was fantastic. I loved that it was actual physical makeup. It didn’t always work perfectly, it wasn’t always a striking resemblance but a lot of times JGL very much looked like Willis.

S: I think they did the best on his nose. Especially when you see Young Joe’s profile.

A: So the acting was fantastic, top to bottom. Everyone here was great. Joe was great, Bruce is very good – this is the best thing Willis has done in a long time. There are a couple scenes of his in particular that hit an emotional chord with me. Some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen from him.

S: Emily Blunt does a great job as Sara, a woman who lives in a farmhouse with her son and helps out Young Joe when he comes across her farm. Now…Blunt’s normal voice has such a thick British accent, and here there’s only a couple times I heard that accent and it was because she dropped letters or elongated letters.

Emily Blunt plays Sara, a young mother living on a remote farm who just wants to raise her young son in peace but gets tangled in the chase between the two Joes.

A: I never caught her real accent here. Her American accent was scary good, in my opinion. If this was the first time you had ever seen Emily Blunt in a movie you would’ve sworn she was American.

S: I was listening for it so maybe that’s why I heard it. I thought Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) did a great job, though he’s not in it a lot…

A: But for what he was in his role was very important. Jeff Daniels (HBO’s The Newsroom) plays Joe’s boss, a mobster named Abe who was sent back from the future to run the operation from 2044’s end, and he’s great.

But the person everyone will be talking about after seeing this movie is Pierce Gagnon, the young boy who plays Sara’s son, Cid. This kid is a revelation.

S: This kid is amazing! He’s better than some seasoned actors five times his age! This kid can’t be any more than 8 years old and it’s amazing what he did. There’s relatively no information we can find on him. He’s only done some bit parts in other films and a recurring role on One Tree Hill but his facial expressions and the line delivery he had for a child actor is amazing. So that definitely will be something I think people will take away from this.

A: You see these small, precocious kids in films sometimes like Haley Joel Osment in Forrest Gump and The Sixth Sense, or Drew Barrymore in E.T. and people went gaga over how good they were. This kid is going to be right up there with them.

S: If not surpass them.

A: He has such a cherubic face, but at the same time what he has to do in this film, he’s just phenomenal.

We just had to include a photo of Pierce Gagnon. Fantastically playing Cid, the young son of Emily Blunt's Sara in Looper, he's going to be one of the most-talked about things from this film. 

S: I’m so excited to see if his career continues. He’s just a child. But if he stays in acting he could be even more amazing I’m sure.

Changing subjects a little bit, one of the things I loved about this movie were the details, like the set details for example.

A: Yes! Thank you!

S: Young Joe lives in 2044. Old Joe lives in 2074. So there’s a definite difference when they do flash-forwards or flashbacks, the way they accelerate what the world looks like without making it look like Star Wars, which I really appreciated. Because, you know, this takes place 32 years from now. How much are things going to be different? Things are going to be different but it’s going to be in subtle ways and not in this massive overhaul of technology.

A: Yeah, usually in movies that take place in the future you get one of two things: you get the Blade Runner look where it’s very dystopian and people live in squalor living on top of one another, or you get these pristine, utopian looking places like in Star Wars or the recent Star Trek movie. Looper is a bit of mixture of the two.

S: There’s definitely a low and a high-class. Not much of an in-between.

A: It takes place in Kansas so you have your rural areas, but there’s also a huge city that I can only assume is Kansas City, that has not only grown outwards but also upwards. But there are some slums, and it was both a pretty realistic and scary prediction of what the future will look like.

S: I think so, too. What I found the coolest were the cars in the movie. So…the cars were today’s cars with subtle twists. Like it looked like gas is re-run through the system, or whatever the fuel is…so it was interesting with subtle details like that, like who would have thought of that? Instead of having all the cars flying, which doesn’t make a ton of sense 32 years down the road. To have them fueled differently makes a lot more sense.

The clothing…the costuming was amazing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the costume design got nominated for an Oscar. Because JGL’s character dresses very retro-gangster, almost like from the 1940s, but so did other people. I loved that.

A: I agree with you, I loved that. And that brings me to another thing I enjoyed about the script was that it was pretty serious but had a nice balance of some humorous parts. That scene between Young Joe and Abe I mentioned earlier was kind of funny because Abe asks Joe why he wears an old-fashioned tie, or a “cravat” as he called it.

S: He also called it a chocker, and told him to wear something more futuristic. Like, “Be new!”

A: Or how Joe is learning French because he’s saving half the silver he’s paid in so he can retire to France some day, and Abe tells him to move to China instead and is like, “Trust me, I’m from the future. Go to China.” Just humor like that.

Oh, and the detail to the physics of time travel itself. It’s one of the best sci-fi movies using time travel. It answers a lot of questions, it uses it smartly. Clearly Rian Johnson thought out his movie, he didn’t just come up with a cool idea and work around it.

Paul Dano's Seth and JGL's Joe, who are paid in silver and gold, are quite the snazzy dressers and drive high-priced vehicles compared to the lower-class citizens of 2044 Kansas in Looper.
S: Everything was pain-stakingly detailed out. I felt it was amazing, that all involved did a great job.

A: Another detail I loved about the time travel aspect was how characters kind of passed messages to each other. That’s all I’ll say, but it was pretty neat. There are some things about time travel they do where you kind of go,”Oh my God,” because it’s so inventive.

S: I loved this movie so much, I was very excited to see it in theatres.

A: Same here. Though it’s actually not as action-packed as the marketing makes it out to seem…

S: But it is quite violent.

A: It is. There are action scenes for sure, but the movie also has a very deliberate pace, so when the action hits occur it’s for a purpose.

S: And I liked how they weren’t overly drawn out. They were quick, to the point, done.

A: Which is typically how real-life violence is. Ok, we could go on and on about this movie…

S: We really could, but I think we’ve hit our main points.

A: Honestly this is one of the few movies we’ve seen this year where I want to go back and see it in theatres again immediately.

S: I had heard before that you might need to…

A: I don’t think it’s the kind of movie that’s so complicated that you NEED to see it twice. It’s not. I think it’ll just be interesting to go back and see it again knowing what we know about it now. I want to go back and look for those little details and nuances to appreciate it a little bit more.

As far as negatives? I honestly can’t think of many. I think my one negative would be that a part of the plot is kind of telegraphed, more so than you think it would be, to me at least. But it doesn’t hurt the movie at all. In fact it kind of ramps up certain aspects about what happens.

S: Yeah because it brings you to those “Oh crap” moments.

A: And there are actions that characters take where there are consequences to what they do.

S: My only negative…there’s one character that really bothered me throughout the movie and only because I felt like there was more to his story…

A: Kid Blue?

S: Yeah, Kid Blue (Noah Segan). Like, I felt like there was more story to him and that he would play a bigger part in the grand scheme of things. He’s Abe’s lead foot soldier and seems to have a special connection to Abe, and I kept thinking he might be a younger version of Abe. Cuz that would’ve made sense to me, but I felt like his character arc it was more of a distraction than addition to the film.

A: There were things I liked about Kid Blue, but I agree with you. His character arc is the weakest. Segen still does a nice job in the role and he definitely still serves a purpose. I’m not going to knock the movie down at all for him.

So those are the only negatives. Ok Sarah, final thoughts on Looper?

S: It’s a must-see in theatres and it’s one we’ll absolutely own one day.

A: Agreed. In fact, and I don’t think this is really going out on any limb, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this movie get a handful of nominations come award season. At a minimum I bet it gets nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Director for Rian Johnson and hopefully even a Best Picture nod. It’s that good.

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see in theatres!

(Individual Scores - S: 4.5/5  A: 5/5) 

Photo Courtesies: FilmoFiliaTimeScreenCrushThe Guardian


  1. I'm ridiculously jealous of everyone who has seen this already.

    I just hope it can meet my ridiculous expectations.

    Aside from the costumes, anyone/anything else Oscar-worthy in Looper?

    1. Well I'm of the belief that the script and film itself might get nominations, but I could also see a supporting nod for Pierce Gagnon. Everyone else was very good but maybe not necessarily Oscar worthy. - A

  2. Great review. Didn’t have me as emotionally-invested as I thought I could have been, but still, a pretty solid sci-fi flick that’s heavy on story and characters, which is all that mattered to me.

  3. I love the style of your reviews. It's almost like I'm hanging out in your living room watching you talk about this flick. I liked Looper, but was confused about some of the characters motives. Will be seeing this again

    1. Thank you Vern! We appreciate that :)

      Yeah, we're going to have to see it again because the movie is so layered and there are so many small details that can go unseen.

      And again, thank you for having us on the podcast!