Looper (Review)

Looper is a 2012 sci-fi action film written and directed by Rian Johnson. The film garnered critical praise and financial success upon its release was one of the most well regarded movies of that year. Please note that it's very hard to review this movie due to its complex plot and just cool touches I don't want to spoil.

Joe is a looper, an assassin who kills somebody sent back through time whenever the future mob needs to get rid of a body. (This is the simplest version I could come up with.) One day, however, he's sent a very special target: his older self. Old Joe escapes and now Young Joe must find him and kill him before his employers kill him for letting his target escape.

The set up is delightfully original and many of the ideas in the film are pretty inspired. They make the world feel real, getting you sucked into the environment.

The screenplay is fantastic. Even though the exposition at the beginning is clearly exposition, it doesn't feel like it. You don't feel like you're being told because you have to know how the world works. It feels more like a guy who's worked at a car shop for a while showing you how it works; "The guys go out for beer on Thursdays, we do this with engine, etc." The dialogue is also great, because even when they're talking about exposition we need to know, it sounds exactly like a conversation these two characters would have at this moment.

The characters are all... intense. They all have very defined and powerful motivations for what they're doing and it's each of these motivations that propel the plot forward. This is what makes good, fast-paced storytelling: give a group of characters strong, identifiable drives to accomplish something and have them go after it with everything they've got. All three of the main characters are isolated, lonely people, but it's in the different ways they respond to their circumstances that makes them uniquely relatable. One is a drug-addicted hedonist, another turns to even more isolation and closes off her heart and another turns to angry revenge to try to fix his problems.


The set design is partially responsible for sucking you into the world. It's very minimal, with not too many fancy buildings or cool visuals. Instead, much of the scenery looks like things that we see in everyday life: dirty city streets, ads, retro 50's diners, farmhouses. In general, the environment is kept looking like the early 21st century. Due to this, we don't pay attention to the scenery because we've seen it all before. Instead, we focus our attention on what we should be focussing on: the characters and the story.

The costume design follows suit, with stylish, but unimpressive clothing such as brown leather jackets, white shirts and blue jeans.

Whoever did the makeup should've gotten some kind of reward or at least a higher than average paycheck. They managed to make Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a man who looks absolutely nothing like Bruce Willis, look like Bruce Willis. It took about 3 hours in the makeup chair every morning, but the end result was worth it.

The acting is also captivating. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role was literally written for him by Johnson, so he can't really help but be spectacular. This is the most invested I've seen Bruce Willis in a performance since Unbreakable and he plays the part great. Both of these actors act, move and speak like each other, which is good since one is playing the old/young version of the other. Emily Blunt does an excellent job of portraying an isolated, lonely mother. The main surprise, however, is an unknown child actor who plays Emily Blunt's son. This kid has a lot of dramatic scenes to act out and he actually nails a lot of them. I fully believe that I'm watching a frightened, emotional little kid who's being put through hell. I really hope this kid goes on to act in other projects because he's got some serious chops.

Summary: Looper is a combination of a variety of different film genres that shouldn't work, but somehow end up being brilliant when put together. There's quick and lively action, heavy drama and a heavy sci-fi element. It's a really hard movie to pin down to any specific genre and that's why it's more than worth watching.



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