Review: Looper

[SPOILER ALERT – It’s excellent. Seriously, though, if you are adverse any advance hints of plot or character in Looper, consider this review peppered with very mild spoilers that make any sort of considered review even possible in this case.]

Empiricist founding father John Locke proposed a curious scenario with of all things, his socks. It goes something like this. If you had a hole in your sock and had to patch it over, you’d probably call it the same sock, more or less. But if you developed another hole, then another, to the point where all the original material of that sock was replaced, would it still be the same sock? Rian Johnson’s fantastic time travel film asks the question, after 30 years of life (and life lessons) are you still you? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are playing Joe, an assassin who kills for the mafia of 2070, even if the present is 2044. Time travel may have been invented somewhere between that span of years, but it was immediately outlawed and then equally immediately co-opted by the mafia as a unique way to dispose of people that they want gone. Send them back to 2044 and have a ‘Looper,’ a member of Joe’s profession, kill and burn the remains effectively destroying the evidence decades before anyone will need to look for it. The catch is that Loopers eventually have to be retired themselves, and are generally retired by themselves, unbeknown by themselves until they see themselves. Keep up with me now, we’re in the in the tall cane. Shockingly, these young assassins generally have a big night on the town after they retire themselves. But, like Logan’s Run or Minority Report, we all apt run in the end when given enough wind of what’s coming. So, when Young-Joe botches the murder Old-Joe, he has a bit of a conundrum. Actually, he has a full blown existential crisis, complicated by the fact that Old-Joe might just be Locke’s over-patched socks. That is to say, is Young-Joe really stepping on his own toes by telling Old-Joe to piss off? Or, going a step further, hunting him down for his mafia masters? From the other side of the equation, consider if you at fifty met yourself at twenty, wouldn’t you want to punch that young twerp in the face?

Looper is perhaps the best piece of time-travel brainfood since Primer. It is notable that that film’s writer/direcotr, Shane Carruth offered his services as some sort of Time-Travel Consultant (a good job if you can get it!) Looper has the money and wherewithal for big action set-pieces, loads of interesting gadgetry and an off-the-wall penchant for wardrobe choices, but it ends up being a surprisingly effective character piece; even a showcase for its actors. It is also is really quite funny in how it tips hand in terms of an awareness of the limitations of the genre, even as it charges right ahead at demonstrating there is still room for expansion. If you make enough holes and patches…new socks. And yet all of these elements are balanced and combined into such a satisfying package in a two hour timeframe. It’s kind of breathtaking. Looper lovingly references elements and tropes of the bright lights in the genre over the years, from Back To The Future and The Terminator, to a few hat-tips towards Rod Serling’s TV staple, The Twilight Zone, and peppered with light touches on Philip K. Dick and Paul Verhoeven, but it repurposes this awareness into a fully confident and personal vision. It flirts with being a both a Western and Dark City (both in Gat-enforcer garb and affectated identity crises.) A character utters the lament, “All my ridiculous shit!” in the context of life choices and how they affect the here and now. An exasperated bit of fatalism spoken by Emily Blunt who is tough, sweaty and vulnerable, a kind of Sarah Connor tough gal (her character is, perhaps cheekily, named “Sara”) that sees a reversal of that waitress to warrior arc. Like the best lines of dialogue in the film, there are several meanings that reveal themselves with time. It delights on all counts in flirting with expectations of the genre, but then heads into entirely new, and emotionally deeper, territory. It rewards you for keeping up with or even occasionally getting ahead of where it is going, but then takes some rather surprising chances with its characters and the audience. Willis playing a time travelling future-man recalls his turn as a straight-jacketed myopic-Cassandra in Terry Gilliam’s La Jetee expansion, 12 Monkeys. Likewise when the character totes a machine gun (ho-ho-ho) it recalls Die Hard or any number of his patented everyman-tough-guys. Johnson uses and subverts even these meta-expectations and funnels them right back into some pure old-fashioned storytelling. But then consider Jeff Daniels playing a mafia middle-manager with humour and grace. Seriously folks, who casts Daniels as an action-movie villain? But it works. As does the retooling of his regular actor Noah Segan as a not quite competent (but still very dangerous) thug with some mentor/father issues and a rather large gun. This is one of the films many wildcards. There is a density of supporting and side characters, too many mentioned here, all serving their own purpose, existing in a larger world. Johnson likes his characters and gives them great dialogue, but is not afraid of offing them either with casual cool or with dramatic weight. Looper despite a change in genres once again for its writer/director, offers an chutney of the stylistic chutzpah shown in wounded neo-noir Brick and the con-artist glee on display in The Brothers Bloom. The film is a significant step forward. It is a calling card towards any offers of risk-taking studio efforts along the lines of Inception or Master & Commander.

Never allowing himself to be bogged down explaining the details (and paradoxes) of time-travel, rather letting the rules (and regulations) demonstrate themselves as the plot thickens, Johnson keeps things moving at an often alarming pace, but never loses sight of the characters or their desires and fears. There may be serious ramifications if you go back into the past and attempt to kill Hitler (or trample the wrong Bradbury butterfly), but the film keeps its focus on squarely on the person-to-person relationships in 2044 and 2070 and where the twain may meet, converge, diverge. The stakes are still quite high, even if you often lose track of who is supposed to be the hero and who is the anti-hero. A considerable montage at the midpoint of the film which serves to show just how JGL will age into Bruce Willis is a startling (even disorienting) choice, but in hindsight, it is quite essential to what type of story is being told. Big montages, or glimpses of technologies delight us with the details of this particular world, they flit by with surprising density. But really, it is the simple things that leave a lasting impression. Whether it is Gordon-Levitt practicing his french in anticipation of a change of scenery, or comfortable bantering with a waitress in a diner (echoed later with a decidedly more serious (and witty) back and forth between both Joes in the same spot), or a hammer resting casually under a sheaf of papers on an imposing desk. The endless poverty in the city and massive gap between the haves and have-nots tells you all you need to know about morality and empathy in the future. Endless rows of dying sugar-cane on Sara’s farm (seeds for future growth) tell us much we need to know about Sara and her present predicament of child rearing in a dangerous world. It is the little ones you have got to look out for; they are probably not going to be themselves in about 30 years.

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Jandy Hardesty
Guest

I won’t be seeing it until tomorrow (hopefully), but I wish I’d been able to manage the midnight screening at Arclight last night – Rian Johnson posed as an Arclight employee to introduce it. AWESOME.

https://vimeo.com/50384592#

Jericho Slim
Guest

Looper – Yes!!! I am so glad I avoided every preview and article, and went in fresh. A great narrative with great characters. My only quibble is that the pacing seemed a little off sometimes, but that really just adds to the movie’s character. Will definitely see it again in theaters. I loved that the photography wasn’t too pristine, and the first 30 seconds set the tone for the whole film.

Jericho Slim
Guest

I also felt a little Clockwork Orange for the first 30 minutes or so

Jonathan
Guest

Am I exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best time travel movies ever? That this movie is not just good, but fucking incredible?

Jonathan
Guest

I want to write my own review, but I’m pretty sure using the word “awesome” so many times would get tiresome.

Schizopolis
Guest

I loved that the movie breathed. I don’t think it’s a pacing issue. That time was used to enrich the characters.

I thought the little kid did a really good job. He wasn’t perfect, but better than 4-5 yr old kid performances, given the plot.

Goon
Guest

So Looper was fucking disappointing. It starts off pretty awesome as it sets up its premise, but after the diner scene, this movie tanks big time. The story with Dark Phoenix Toddler is just a humongous bore, Willis is sorely missed, especially since they took the time to set up his character as being more sympathetic than JGL. it just fails to deliver on it’s own premise. It just gets really really fucking boring as they toss aside the JGL vs. Willis meeting-yourself story for something so much lesser.

A lot of the math of this movie doesn’t add up really regarding the 30 year “freedom” contracts vs. the 30 years before time travel is created and the time it takes Rainmaker to take over. Also of course the movie never bothers to explain how they set up their hitman system between the past and future, or why if time travel is so illegal and closing the loop is so important why they trust yourself to kill… yourself.

Jonathan
Admin

SPOILERS OBVIOUSLY. The film definitely takes a huge tonal shift after the diner, but it worked for me. As for Willis, his Old Joe served the purpose of demonstrating that, despite his righteous “selfish” talk in the diner, Joe hadn’t really changed his selfish ways 30 years later. The pursuit of the Rainmaker, the killing of the child, it wasn’t about saving society, it wasn’t even about saving the woman, it was about saving the life that he had. If it had been about saving the woman, he would have showed Young Joe the photo in the diner.

As for the trust for Loopers to kill themselves, Loopers don’t usually know they’ve killed their future self until after they’ve already shot the person. Paul Dano’s character didn’t because his future self was singing a childhood song. Young Joe didn’t because Old Joe had taken off his mask. As shown in the original timeline, Young Joe did kill Old Joe the first time, when he was masked.

Goon
Guest

“As for the trust for Loopers to kill themselves, Loopers don’t usually know they’ve killed their future self until after they’ve already shot the person.”

This doesn’t change the dumb practice.

I agree with you about Old Joe, but it doesn’t make him a villain. It makes him sympahetic because he is in mourning of something that made his life better. We could have seen both of these characters morph into each other/become better people by the end through interaction, development as they get their way through this fucked up situation. Instead to me they are both much lesser characters by being kept apart. I was far less interested in JGL humourlessly hiding out on the farm, and Willis was an absolute bore left off on his own to his mission. And Daniels goes from being a cool villian to being completely inconsequential.

Jonathan
Admin

This was Rian’s explanation for why a Looper had to close their own loop:

“People in the future, all they know about time travel is to be afraid of it. So they’re trying to keep it as tight as possible. So the initial reason they set it up this way was to keep the causality loop as tight as possible,” Johnson said. Because, for example, if someone else kills your older self and you have to exist with your own murderer for 30 years, what’s stopping you for murdering them or doing something to screw everything else up? ”Every bit of evidence is gone from that loop when you kill yourself,” he said.

Makes sense to me.

And yeah, I don’t think that Old Joe was a villain. Nor was he supposed to be. I agree that he was sympathetic, although so was Young Joe in his loneliness.

I guess I can see why the farm scenes didn’t work for some people. I loved them. It was like Witness meets… Firestarter.

I am in agreement that I would have liked more done with Jeff Daniels’s character, but that’s just because I fucking love Jeff Daniels.

Goon
Guest

That closed loop explanation is lame, and it’s not in the movie, so it’s also moot.

Jonathan
Admin

What is lame about it? It makes sense and the explanation doesn’t need to be in the movie.

The film doesn’t get caught up in explaining every facet of it’s universe’s time travel and frankly, it’s not interested in doing it either. This is winked at at least twice throughout the film, once when Jeff Daniel’s says something about time travel talk frying a person’s brain like an egg and then again in the diner when Old Joe flips out, saying he doesn’t want to talk about the time travel or they’ll be spending all day drawing diagrams (or something like that).

The movie was far more interested in the story than the time travel, which I can appreciate.

Andrew James
Admin

There are a couple of things that don’t totally work with me on the film, but I still really really enjoyed the hell out of it. I agree with Goon that keeping Old Joe and Young Joe apart was maybe a mistake – granted the entire story would be different – but watching Willis wander around and doing the street thing, peeking in windows, etc did drag the movie’s pacing down a bit.

On the other hand, I didn’t know about the whole Firestarter thing going in (in fact I knew nothing!) and I really did like that idea. Still, more exploration into the two Joe’s hanging out together could’ve been fun.

If Shyamalan were still making great movies, this is the sort of thing I envision him making.

[Rating:4/5]

Andrew James
Admin

Is it superficial to start talking about JG-L looking like Willis? It’s distracting as all hell. Is it CGI or make-up?

JG-L does an OUTSTANDING job of acting like Willis, but the make-up is seriously distracting. Not sure how it could’ve been done any other way, but… yeah.

Jonathan
Admin

It’s make-up and a prosthetic nose, I believe. And really? Other than knowing that it was JGL under there and knowing what he actually looks like, I thought the makeup was superb. I thought about it for maybe the first five minutes and then forgot all about it. JGL definitely did an unbelievably good job, like you said, which helped.

Jonathan
Guest

Also, thinking about it, I don’t know if I could have bought Young Joe as the character he played had it been JGL’s face. He needed to be uglied up a bit.

Antho42
Guest

The only thing that seem fake was the lips.

Antho42
Guest

I really enjoyed the film — possibly my favorite film of the year so far. I got a Philip K. Dick’s Ubik vibe which I hit my sweet spot.

I had problems with the last 3 minutes of the film. It tried to be but it did not have the nuance of 12 Monkeys/ La Jatee.

I guess, I wanted more existential elements from the film.

Antho42
Guest

Kurt, without a doubt:
Children of Men’s ending>>>>>> Looper’s ending.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Children of Men has an atrocious ending.

Antho42
Guest

The Children of Men has a fucking amazing ending, and you know it is the truth, Matt Gamble . First of all, we do know whether the ship is the ship they were looking for. Second of all, even if it was the ship they were looking for, we do not whether the researchers are “good guys.” Third of all, even if the researches are all good, it might be too little to late to save humanity. And, oh yea, we also do not know whether Clive Owen’s character is dead.

Children of Men does end in somewhat optimistic tone, but it never fully commits to an optimistic resolution (i.e., it is not a Spielbergian ending).

For these reasons, Children of Men’s ending is far more nuance than Looper’s ending.

Jonathan
Guest

Oh god… remember the ending of War of the Worlds?

That’s a great example of a good movie that is ruined by an atrocious, careless, stupid ending. Completely ruined.

Antho42
Guest

I totally agree with you, Jonathan. I fucking hated Tom Cruise’s son. His survival is one of the most atrocious plot developments that I have witnessed in cinema. Fuck you, Spielberg!

Matt Gamble
Guest

Their is no nuance in Children of Men’s ending. the tone and meaning is clear, it is tacked on and total bullshit.

Kurt
Guest

I actually agree with MATT on this one. I’m not a very big fan of the last 40 seconds of CoM, but I’ve made my peace with it, because the rest of the film is SO DAMN GOOD.

Jericho Slim
Guest

I have to agree with Kurt and Matt as well.

Antho42
Guest

Matt Gamble, it is only clear with the relationship between the two characters in the boat. The ending does not negate the fact that girl is in a dire situation and living in a fuck up world.
Like I said, we do not know what her situation is. All she got is faith, which fully supports the Biblical theme of the film that was throughout the film. Even though Cuaron shots the film as a believer, he acknowledges that when their is faith, there is never certainty.

In fact, I found the ending to be very pessimistic. Maybe it has to do with me being a godless creature: I truly think that she, like the rest of humanity in the film, is doomed.

antho42
Guest

My theory is that people that dislike the ending of Children of Men missed the nuanced elements of the ending .Cuaron does not spoon fee the audience the theme of the film like Johnson does with Looper.

Goon
Guest

I’m with antho. The CoM ending is amazing.

Are people so desperate for a new time travel movie that people are willing to ignore all these flaws and just champion whatever feels like it’s there? I’m watching Super 8 right now and it feels like the same deal all over again, except at least with Super 8 the kids were strong enough characters to carry you through the story as it gets less satisfying.

Kurt
Guest

You’ve got to be kidding me. Comparing this to Super8 is madness.

Goon
Guest

I’m not comparing it to Super 8 contentwise. I was referring to hype vs. output

Bob: Trading the Joe vs Joe storyline for Joe’s Farm Follies is like promising me a steak and then giving me Skittles. They promised me raw meat and then gave me a whole bunch of sugary nothing.

Goon
Guest

side note:

Most egregious sex scene in a film I can remember in some time.

Jonathan
Admin

What was egregious about it? The sex scene served two purposes: the demonstrate the severe loneliness of both of these characters and to make it clear that, despite the sex, there wasn’t really any romantic chemistry between them. There was that one sexual encounter, sure, but there was never romance between Joe and Emily Blunt’s character. Which I appreciated.

Goon
Guest

You believe that sex scene revealed anything about the characters that we didn’t already know?

The Kid Blue scenes might all be unnecessary as well if that character is not the younger version of Abe, and Abe smacks him around to shape who he will eventually become. They don’t really go anywhere with it in any satisfying way anyways. They just raise a bunch of thematic/time travel questions, which to me, often allow some pretty mediocre films (hello, Primer) to get more love than deserved because people have fun untangling the threads.

Goon
Guest

side note2:
how is it that of the last few weeks, the gender politics of Dredd manage to be far more progressive than that of Looper? The uber-violent 80s callback schlock machine has strong female characters, and Looper has domestic goddesses whose only role is to soothe the violent men teetering between good and bad. Between her and Creepy Child, they’re Trope and Troper.

back to the general disappointment that JGL and Willis really only have a couple minutes screentime, given at how regressive and boring I found the entire farm story, I continue to mourn how Rian couldn’t be bothered to explore how Willis’ character, so burdened with a life of pain and regret, might have advised and worrked with JGL and allowed those characters to grow into each other. Yes, it’s a matter of wanting a different film, but I can’t help but go there when the switch is so far less appetizing than the bait that put me in my theater seat. If Looper was a Choose Your Own Adventure book, the story we got would have been one of the loser ones.

Rick Vance
Guest

I think you are assuming them working out their differences would be something that would even be possible.

Also assigning ‘good’ and ‘bad’ endings based on what if’s is kinda silly.

Goon
Guest

“I think you are assuming them working out their differences would be something that would even be possible.”

Sure it is. We’ve established that if Young Joe does physical damage to Old Joe, Old Joe gets hit with it. Likewise if Young Joe has a major change in the way he views the world, how he values life, who he loves, it changes Old Joe as well. Old Joe changes against his will. We get bits of this in Looper with the locket and trying to focus on remembering Asian lady’s face, but they don’t follow through.

And all it would take is for Older Joe to let go of his past/future with the Asian woman and accept the new life that Young Joe has chosen. Young Joe has all the cards. Older Joe can be redeemed and cleansed of his pain through Young Joe’s actions.

Rick Vance
Guest

There you go again assuming that it is possible he would ever want to let go.

That was his entire storyline from minute one to minute final.

Goon
Guest

I don’t think it’s assuming a thing. Based on the script that is there, Young Joe holds the trump card to Old Joe at all times. If he wanted to, he could have cut off his own hands or blinded himself, and immediately he stops Old Joe from getting that kid. And if he falls in love or changes his ways, Old Joe changes too. This is what happens based on the rules that Johnson himself had set up. No assumptions necessary.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Desperate? Not at all…I found the characters interesting and the early goings set things up well for JGL’s final realization. Though it appears that Willis is selfish for what he ends up doing, he’s already gone through his growth and everything he does – as much as he hates doing it – is for someone else. It’s that same realization that JGL gets to right at the end – of course, his sacrifice is for a much larger cause.

I don’t see the major flaws you do. I think the film sets up its world and parameters pretty well and I totally agree with the reasoning for the loopers having to kill themselves. It totally fits with the concepts provided. I’m sure you can find the issues – any time travel film will have them which is part of the fun – but I like the way this handled it.

Also, I loved all the farm stuff. Granted, I’m rather infatuated with Emily Blunt, but I was totally fine with them being apart. It also allowed for Willis to gain the knowledge that JGL was finding out (they didn’t use that conceit much, but it was effective when they did).

And visually, I think those final TK scenes are fantastic. That slo mo wasn’t overused and brought great impact.

Totally worked for me.

Rick Vance
Guest

I am a mark for this movie like I couldn’t have believed going in, all the reference the layering of ideas the fact that it was funneled through a smaller story enhanced the movie for me.

Antho42
Guest

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS:

Does not Bruce Willis killing all the Loopers result in completely altering the future already ( i.e., butterfly effect)? And in the “original Old Joe timeline” how the heck did the Rainmaker become a bad guy if his mother was not killed by Old Joe (i.e., no 12 Monkeys scenario)?

Furthermore, how is the future Rainmaker a bad guy/Hitler baby? He is simply closing all the Loops ( a criminal organization) which is the faith that the Loopers agree to in their contract? Even if the Rainmaker did not exist, eventually Bruce Willis is going to be killed by the syndicate.

Also, was not the Syndicate screwed by killing Bruce Will’s wife in the future?

Rick Vance
Guest

SPOILER
SPOILER
SPOILER

Couple things,

He didn’t just close all the Loops he forcibly took over the 5 cities and started ‘cleaning’ them up.

I don’t care what happens after the credits outside where the 3 characters in that final frame are, else we get into the world of pictures made out of straws.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Willis didn’t kill Loopers, he killed Gats.

Matt Gamble
Guest

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS:

Also, since they never show how the Rainmaker was created in the first timeline, their is no way of knowing that JGL killing himself still prevents the Rainmaker from coming into being. All he knows is that he prevented that from starting at that exact moment, but the the possibility still exists that the Rainmaker will come into being at another date and time. In fact, it could be argued that JGL’s sacrifice prevented nothing.

Antho42
Guest

Spoilers Spoilers Spoilers:

But how does JGL know that the kid is going to escape from Old Joe? He cannot see the future.

“started ‘cleaning’ them up.” How is that a bad thing? From what the film presents, Joe’s and Old Joe’s timelines is set in bleak 1% vs 99% world. Heck, he might be the savior.

Matt Gamble
Guest

SPOILER
SPOILER
SPOILER

He very well could be, though it seems unlikely that his reign would be any better than anyone elses. And he knows that by killing himself he has closed his Loop, so he knows that old JGL can’t hurt anyone anymore.

Rick Vance
Guest

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS:

Sure transfers of power are never neat and tidy so it is very possible there are people who would hail his coming as a positive however from what little we have to go on of the WillisFuture it is not all good so obviously with Time Travel having been invented that plants the idea in everyones mind of the classic killing Hilter idea.

Once you plant that seed you can’t stop the growth of it.

Antho42
Guest

And do not get me wrong, unlike Goon, I really liked the film… I just do not think it hits LEGENDARY status. I am impress on how much world building they did for a 30 million dollar budget. It further showcases the travesty that is the Total Recall remake, which had a 150 million dollar budget. Fuck you, Lens Wiseman!

Goon
Guest

I didn’t hate the film, I just don’t get the cheerleadering and am now falling into a cynical place where I think an indie film attempting to be a blockbuster is getting preferential/biased critical consideration of its mediocre worldbuilding and ideas.

Daybreakers was a 20 million budget, did a hell of a lot more in worldbuilding, A+ worldbuilding in fact, and that movie is just a few scratches better than Looper. I can appreciate stretching a low budget, but I can’t give it extra points for it either.

For the record, I enjoy (and own) Johnson’s other two features.

Kurt
Guest

Daybreakers. BLECH….Not a fan.

Jericho Slim
Guest

Daybreakers? That’s the counter-example? Wow.

Goon
Guest

It’s the example when you look at high concept worldbuilding on a low budget, yes. If you’re gonna write off the job they did worldbuilding (forget the movie, talking worldbuilding), you either havent seen Daybreakers or you’re a fool 😛

Jericho Slim
Guest

Oh, I’m a fool – a fool in love with good movies. Hence, my non love for the world-building in daybreakers – where the shade from a tree can keep a vampire from sunlight.

Goon
Guest

You’re gonna have to try a lot harder to knock it. Vampires and sunlight is a completely arbitrary rule.

And again, there’s no claim that Daybreakers is a fantastic film here. You can praise a film’s worldbuilding and knock it everywhere else. Unless when you don’t like a movie you feel the urge to knock it across the board somehow?

Andrew James
Admin

The patented Row3 SuperDayBreakersSmackdownBrawl from a few years ago in which Andrew was completely correct:

http://www.rowthree.com/2010/01/12/cinecast-episode-151-feeding-time/

Goon
Guest

^way ahead of you Kurt, during which Andrew (like I would) praises the film for the explanations of how society works but not much else, and Kurt focuses on attacking the film for its ideas instead.

Andrew James
Admin

I’m sort of on board with everything Goon is saying. I loved the movie, but agree that there are things that could be better – especially putting Willis and JG-L together in much more of the film. I also don’t see the “legendary” status this film is getting. I liked it a lot but as of now it’s #10 on my best of the year list and will be shocked if it stays there through December 31st.

I disagree however on the world-building complaint. I thought pretty much everything about it was most triumphant.

Goon
Guest

We don’t really see how the Looper system works regarding how the hit times get communicated to the past, all we know is that Abe is in charge and he’s from the future. We know little about the future other than hearsay. We know that Joe spends his money on hookers and drugs and retirement. I found the world building to give glimpses of texture, enough to biuld intrigue and carry the story forward, but that the world these characters live in itself to be a little generic. The most interesting element of the world of 2044 was the music they were listening to, but even that was already done in Children of Men (and funnier, essentially just an Aphex Twin song with bizarre screams overlayed). The TK stuff was kind of shitty to me, and inserted into the film early on in the most “Hey! It’s the future! And this will be relevant later!” kind of ‘gun in act one’ kind of way imaginable. I found it rather clumsy that they need to tack on a mutant power storyline on top of their time travel story, as if the latter wasn’t enough. It’s like making a traditional zombie movie where some of them can also teleport.

Actually, I think I can sell that. Anyone want to fund a kickstarter for my teleporting zombie movie?

Jonathan
Guest

You’re really stretching for complaints now.

Goon
Guest

Not really. Other points have complaints. This is just the “but what about X?” “X could have been better” zone.

But how am I stretching? Film’s getting credit for worldbuilding, and I’m bringing up some key elements of the films worldbuilding that I wasn’t all that impressed by, and why. I’m not casually tossing aside the films credit as worldbuilding, but you’re casually tossing aside my critique of it, aren’t you?

Kurt
Guest

Goon is not disliking per se, he is warping the general consensus like of the film into some sort of next-coming-of-christ mentality that he feels is his duty to rail against.

Looper represents not only a pretty solid entertaining movie, but a promise of things to come…Kind of the same way that MEMENTO did this back in 2000. That is to say, people are enthusiastic about the brains and craft behind LOOPER enough to justify Johnson getting big-hollywood money behind a project, yet still remaning relatively personal and autonomous. I’m all for that kind of enthusiasm.

Plus, Looper plays with genre expectations and rhythms in a very, very smart way.

In other words, GOON didn’t LOVE-THE-FILM-TO-THE-MOON and the often-black-and-white internet response is to say that he therefore must of HATED it, where as he was probably just rather neutral….Am I warm?

Goon
Guest

I don’t think it’s my duty to rail against it, but when you’re openly logging everything, not being part of the second-coming-of-christ mentality means once you start talking about it, you get pushed into a corner where you have to start justifying why you’re not with the herd. I don’t think I’m casually writing the film off and even among the bad reviews I don’t think I’m seeing anyone who is either. The worst reviews are ones that agree with mine: Lots of initial promise that doesn’t pay off/frontloaded. I don’t think it’s stupid, but I don’t think it even approaches anything resembling genius or the exuberance behind Brick and Brothers Bloom.

But anyways, I make it sound like I’m being victimized by disliking it. I’m not. I want to be part of the conversation and thus accept the frustration of being alone on this one, having to budget time for anyone who would constructively rebut my complaints.

When I think back to Chronicle this year, i think of another movie which was welcomed with open arms as if it was fresh and revolutionary that I also found disappointingly middle of the road. I also think Chronicle has already fallen off the radar to the point a good lot of its champions wont have it in their top 10s of the year.

Finally, aside: Is it fair to say at R3 Rian has “friend of the show” status? Was a pretty high profile guest and so I assume so. I don’t know if that causes any bias in anyone here, but if so, would appreciate if it would be acknowledged.

Andrew James
Admin

Not biased in any way at least from me. I’m enjoying all of your points and agreeing with most of them. I just enjoyed the movie too much for all of the things it does right to complain or be disappointed by the things it does wrong.

I agree with the clunkiness of the TK thing. I agree JGL and Willis should’ve been on screen together a LOT more. I agree that the pacing is off at times. I agree that the time travel aspect should’ve been played with a little more. How do the loopers know that exact moment the marks are coming from?

Solid movie; fun; would watch again. Top ten of the year good? I seriously doubt it.

antho42
Guest

I also liked Chronicle, but let’s bet honest: Looper is ten times the film.

Goon
Guest

Clearly what Chronicle needed was for it’s telekinetic children to hang out on a farm doing dick all.

Kurt
Guest

Considering that I founded my casual acquaintance with him (and the kind solid he did for us coming on the show back in 2009) by giving The Brothers Bloom the first negative review on the internet (over at TWITCHFILM), I think it’s safe to say there is no fear of honesty in my reaction to the film. If I didn’t like the film, I’d have been very clear on it.

I’ve got no worries about that (and you shouldn’t either!) — There’s no kid-gloves goings on.

Goon
Guest

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Andrew, what would you have thought if instead of blowing himself away, if Young Joe had merely… ripped the eyes out of his sockets or blown his hand off, effectively disarming Old Joe and tying back into established setup of what happened with Seth.

I guess at that point I either glossed over or wrote off anything that necessitates that they off one or both of the two Joes to prevent Sid from being an evil horror in the future. I dont know how Joe figures Sid is better off without him around in his life.

Serious question about timeline stuff, annoying details that is more interest than it is a real nitpick:

So… how long have the loopers been operative? Its 2044 right, and time travel is invented sometime around 2074. It’s not specific. Joe says “In 30 years, it will have been” which makes me believe it’s around 30 years, that he may nots know for sure because hey, he’s in the past.

Anyways some loopers are closing their loops and I guess this has been going on for a bit for the successful closed loop we see to not look out of the ordinary. And that guy will get a 30 year freedom run before they pick him up and off him…

SO

If Loopers have been running since say, 2030-2035, lets give em a bit of time to assume they’ve got a little bit of a career at this to set up this operation, it would mean that a lot of people have their 30 years of freedom after they close their loops, run out before time travel is even invented? or do they get 40 years because they are part of a first/earlier wave? Maybe Loopers after Joe’s time get 25 years freedom? 20?

Are all the Loopers getting wiped out from their 2074 states when time travel is freshly invented to immediately cover their tracks after it becomes illegal? are they living for years after it’s illegal? Has Joe only been a Looper for a few months, or ust a few years? The operation has to have been at least a few years or so old if Sara knows about it (presumably from the days in the city).

Does it make sense that they would have loopers have such short careers/availability then, before they would cash them out… considering that time travel is so secret? I mean… if Sara knows the Loopers are out there..

then so would others and eventually police, who upon discovery that time travel exists, would ban time travel before it was even invented and even start cracking down on the mob before they can even put their practice in place. PRE-CRIME!

Thus, in order to prevent there being too many cashed out loopers out there with this secret who could bring down the operation with loose lips, it would make sense to NOT be closing out these loops so fast, or at least NOT allow those who closed their loops to leave the organization. It seems there’s too many angles to have their looping system collapse upon itself by having young loopers cash out, on top of the risks of forcing loopers to off their future selves unsupervised.

Let`s also note that these Loopers are taking drugs and are apparently fucked up and irresponsible people. Kid Blue, assuming he’s not Abe, gets a number of second chances. They off Seth, but he seems like they were putting up with him being a fuckup for a while. This operation, they’re so unprofessional! It’s like they’re begging to get caught by the authorities or have loopers miss their targets and have out-of-time old farts consistently on the lam.

rot
Guest

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I would have liked a scene explaining how/if Abe was able to communicate with the future. If he is working for them and has been sent back a long time ago, how does he get informed of any changes, i.e. a Rainmaker event? Little nuances like that would have been nice. If you are going to world-build, cover at least the basic elements. We are not shown any way for time travel except to appear in the cornfield and that tends to be for executions. Maybe they could show one of the bodies with a message, along with the silver. But then would they trust a Looper to pass the message. I admit it is small stuff here, but it would be nice to flesh out the system a bit more.

Antho42
Guest

One thing is for sure, Looper continues the 2012 trend of polarizing films. And judging from the early reactions of Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi, the trend is going to continue.

Andrew James
Admin

Doesn’t seem all that polarizing. Goon is the first person I’ve seen who didn’t really like it. Of everybody on LetterBoxd who has rated it, 85% (roughly) of the ratings are 4 stars or more. Below 3.5/5 is almost nobody. And 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.

rot
Guest

I LIKED Looper, liked. somewhere between 3 and 3.5 stars. I don’t find the farm stuff all that engaging, and my main complaint is too much of the run-time is centered around it. Also maybe it is just me, but there feels like a lot of nods to other films in this… not saying it isn’t original, I think it has enough original ideas but just visual nods… everything from Willis dressed similar to as he was in Pulp Fiction, to the Star Wars sound of the hovercraft crashing, to the Biff Tanner qualities of the guy who shot his foot, there were a bunch of them.

rot
Guest

oh and as Matt Brown mentions in his review, Emily Blunt’s character being named Sarah, and the Terminator-like framework of the story.

Kurt
Guest

ahem.

“A character utters the lament, “All my ridiculous shit!” in the context of life choices and how they affect the here and now. An exasperated bit of fatalism spoken by Emily Blunt who is tough, sweaty and vulnerable, a kind of Sarah Connor tough gal (her character is, perhaps cheekily, named “Sara”) that sees a reversal of that waitress to warrior arc.”

Matt Brown
Admin

I’ll just drop this right here:

http://www.thesubstream.com/html-review-looper.html

Rick Vance
Guest

Which is part of the reason I am loving this year, slew of divisive movies is always more fun.

Kurt
Guest

My lord when CLOUD ATLAS come along, it’ll be all out war in the filmnerdosphere.

Rick Vance
Guest

Also this movie is another nail in the ruined decrepit future > pristine future coffin

Bob Turnbull
Admin

The biggest criticism of the movie I’ve seen is that Willis and JGL don’t spend much time together…Now, I guess I get that since they are the two big stars and their one big scene together is quite excellent. BUT, it doesn’t fit the story that has already been carved out. Willis desperately wants to preserve his wife in the future – not just her life, but his own memory of her (remember how there’s that scene where he is desperately trying to hang on to her image in his mind when JGL is with Blunt?). Therefore, the more time he spends with JGL, the more he puts that at risk – JGL even wants to see her picture so that he can avoid her in the future. So Willis has learned to sacrifice for his wife, but he won’t quite go to the point of sacrificing his memories of her. I kinda love that part of it…

Also, JGL wants to kill Willis so that he can restore his proper standing in the current world (at least he thinks he can get that back). So why would Willis hang around him? Again I get why people would want the two together, but I think it would have devalued everything that was setup. Therefore, you totally do want a completely different movie if you want them together more. I don’t think the trailer necessarily sold that bill of goods to you.

As for JGL killing Willis, I thought it was the perfect solution for JGL to keep Blunt alive so that she could raise the boy and prevent his future nastiness as well as save Willis’ wife. It was the ultimate selfless sacrifice.

It just sounds like the film didn’t engage you Goon, so you’re picking at what you see as holes – fair enough as I can’t say I’ve never done that before. But any of the ones you’ve raised either seem completely inconsequential to me (how do they relay the times for the executions back? I couldn’t care less) or I don’t see as holes (I’m perfectly fine with loopers needing to kill themselves – I accept the explanation).

It’s not the movie I expected either. But I’m very happy with what I got. Very.

Kurt
Guest

People applied this criticism for HEAT when it originally came out. That has completely faded away.

The more obvious home for that criticism (they don’t spend enough time together) is in Romantic Comedies, and I don’t think it matters much to what LOOPER is going on about.

This is another comment on the non-necessity of the make-up in Looper (maybe only a false nose was required), because the character’s aren’t sharing too many scenes together anyway…

rot
Guest

I think this is less a complaint of not having these characters together more so much as the first half of the film is so much better than the second, some get nostalgic for when it was about the time travel thing, and less about a family in need. They blew their load early.

Goon
Guest

rot, yes, when the second half is not even remotely as engaging at the first for me, I can only ask “What was in place and what could have been done to carry the awesome first half into the second?” And to me the answer is “Plenty”. Plenty of more interesting directions.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

Whereas I agree with Kurt in saying that the second half follows nicely from the first half. Yeah, it goes in a different direction than we all expected when we went in – and I love where they went with it. I’d like to say that you’re just too stuck on wanting more spiffy time travel stuff to appreciate the character growth on the farm, but maybe that’s not fair…

Jandy Hardesty
Guest

I’m with Kurt and Bob, I think. Looking at Goon’s long list of questions of time travel mechanics – I’m actually really glad they didn’t bother to go into all that. Firstly, because it isn’t important to the story they’re telling, which is how JGL became the kind of person who would take the actions he did, even against the judgement of his future self. Secondly, because it would’ve bogged down the story in a lot of exposition (and diagrams, as Bruce Willis points out in the diner). Thirdly, because JGL is the narrator, and he’s hardly presented as the kind of person who would know or care about the detailed mechanics. He’s a fast-living punk kid who knows to be at a certain place at a certain time, shoot someone, get paid, and that’s it. He wouldn’t give a damn how it worked.

I enjoyed the movie start to finish; I think my only lingering question-cum-plot-hole is the one Antho brought up (if Old Joe doesn’t kill Blunt, how does the kid grow up to be the Rainmaker, if in fact, Joe’s future flash was correct and his sacrifice was effective). I didn’t care about this in the moment, though, and my head started to explode when I thought about it on the way home, so I decided to enjoy the movie anyway, as a much smarter-than-most genre film that hits pretty much all its beats, both character and action.

rot
Guest

@ Jandy,

sure, but when you choose to do a time travel story you automatically set yourself up for these kinds of nitpicks. Not justifying any particular nitpick, just generally, it would behoove one to do the math and clear up the big nagging holes before even trying to do the drama. Otherwise just tell a straight story.

Goon
Guest

Bob, I didn’t want/need this thing to be all flashy time travel theory, I just wanted the promise of both Old Joe’s and Young Joe’s characters to pay off, and I don’t feel either did.. but that they could have through several other possible avenues, some which would require more time travel ladida than others. I think I’d have even preferred this thing devolving into a shoot em up Face/Off over Farmapalooza.

Andrew James
Admin

No, completely different situation here. With Heat, the excitement was about having DeNiro and Pacino together for the first time. That was a big deal.

With Looper, it isn’t AT ALL that we need Willis and JG-L together (I could care less about that). I think the story would be more interesting with Old Joe and Young Joe working together to solve a paradox rather than them out working on their own to solve their own internal issues that we as an audience don’t really care about.

Their “final showdown” on the road outside the farmhouse with motorcycle guy was clumsy, boring and not shot well. That was the worst part of the movie for me.

Kurt
Guest

From Looper Tumblr:

LOOPER TIME TRAVEL FACTS #1!
Each time machine has an inherent tuning to send its contents back a fixed amount of time. This amount is not adjustable. So if a machine’s natural tuning is 30 years, 2 months, 12 days and 25 seconds, that amount stays fixed and the point in the past that it zaps you to slides forward in real time.

Goon
Guest

“BUT, it doesn’t fit the story that has already been carved out. Willis desperately wants to preserve his wife in the future – not just her life, but his own memory of her (remember how there’s that scene where he is desperately trying to hang on to her image in his mind when JGL is with Blunt?). Therefore, the more time he spends with JGL, the more he puts that at risk”

I’ll give that he doesn’t want to show her because it puts at risk his memory of the first time he ever saw her face. However again, these are still the two same people in many ways, that even though he had this mother figure ‘save’ him he’s still this same guy. The movie fails to run the “you’re the only guy I can trust because you’re me” element, or that he can be his closest ally and his biggest enemy at the same time. The movie has the slightest touch of Old Joe being able to use Young Joe because they share the same memories, but it’s more concerned with chillaxing all cool on the farm with TK stuff that adds nothing thematically and to me is really just unnecessary window dressing. They could have used the TK stuff as some reflection of mind power vs Old Joe’s mind changing at Young Joe’s will to resolve the conflict… but they don’t.

Goon
Guest
Andrew James
Admin

That was pretty good. Now you got me hooked on these:
http://goo.gl/CkaPj – check 2:35 hilarious.

Goon
Guest

The Transformers one is the best of the Honest Trailers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzJuDo5ots0

rot
Guest

Just explain to me how Abe is able to communicate with the future, or how the mechanics of this arrangement works to make sense and I will give it five stars. There must be something alluded to or addressed, if not, this arrangement is absurd and makes sense only in order to allow the Rainmaker storyline to be a revelation to the past folk, which then is lazy writing.

How do you run such a risky high stakes business without communication lines open? If Abe dies, if one loop is not closed, it is all over.

rot
Guest

unless, for fear of creating time complications, they minimize communication to need to know. Would be cool to see how Abe would be able to communicate with the future, by writing it down in a permanent way in a fixed location to carry over the gap of time.

To reiterate, I like the movie, and I can even understand the choice of being blase about the explanations as they are coming from young Joe, giving us just to enough to get the imagination going, get the story going… but I think on this one issue, it should have been clarified because it is a fundamental part of the sci-fi conceit. How does the system work? What are the parameters so then when it is transgressed we can understand it as an unforeseeable event.

rot
Guest

spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***spoilers***

Actually I think I figured it out, The rainmaker had control of the time machine, so there would be no messages to be received even if they could, and the closing of loops were being done surreptitiously.

Antho42
Guest

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I still do not understand the role of the Rainmaker. Regardless of the Rainmaker’s actions, Old Joe is going to be separated from his wife, since he is going to be sent back in time by the Syndicate. The only difference the Rainmaker make is speeding up the process. But even taking the into consideration, it is establish that Looper have pretty much 30 years of life after closing their loop — which is the age that separates Old from Young Joe. So why should Old Joe be made over the Rainmaker? If anything, he should be mad over the Looper program.

People have pointed that Rainmaker is a Hitler type person, but, in my opinion, the film does not provide that much sufficient evidence to fully back this view. All we have for evidence is that Old Joe, and some of his Looper colleagues, view him as a “bad guy.” But Old Joe and his colleagues are unreliable people. After all, they are Loopers, and seems to support the status qou of the future — one where it has become a widespread practice to kill people by sending back into the past. Old Jose is also an unreliable point of view because the film does not spend enough time establishing his character. If anything, the Rainmaker is doing Old Joe a favor by appearing to destroy the Looper program.

And like I said earlier in the thread, there is a huge possibility that the Rainmaker is Jesus Christ/Martin Luther King, not a Hitler figure.

I am not doing unnecessary nitpicks: these complains are valid because it relates to the stakes that are raised in the third act.

Goon
Guest

Basically, Looper is like The Sixth Sense. Everyone goes “OH COOL!” at first, but the more you examine it the more problematic the whole thing becomes.

Antho42
Guest

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The ending is complete bullshit — because the film makes it look like Young Joe can see the future; a totally unnecessary scene. If he can see the future, Old Joe can remember the event, which would prevent him from killing the mother because he knows that it going to make things worse.

Antho42
Guest

Kurt, I hate Ayn Rand.

Antho42
Guest

“But his act is heroic because it boils down to he wants the Mother & Child to walk off into the sunset together.

That in that moment is a heroic act.”
I would have liked that ending — but the ending puts more emphasis on the for certain, Hitler-like scenario with those flashforward (?) scenes. Without those flashforward scenes, it will be a good ending.

Matt Gamble
Guest

Actually it doesn’t, it clouds it by showing you what Joe believes is likely to happen, the film never shows you what actually happens, because the plot at that point is not important to the film. It is Joe’s act, one in which he finally makes a sacrifice for the betterment of others, that is what is important. Arguing about what the plot will now be in the future only underscores that you didn’t get the film’s true intentions.

Also, am I the only one who is getting a Catfish vibe out of these comments? So much arguing about minutiae that the point of the film is being glossed over.

Jonathan
Guest

Man, the Catfish post. What an epic thread of comments. It almost broke the internet… particularly when Angela showed up.

Antho42
Guest

Yeah, I am done arguing over this point.

Andy
Guest

After reading all these deep, thoughtful comments, I’m wondering if it was wrong that my favorite part of the movie was when Bruce Willis wasted the entire criminal underworld with two automatic weapons; one in each hand.

Jonathan
Guest

That was some serious Fifth Element shit right there.

Kurt
Guest

FYI, there is a fair bit of discussion on the repeating symbols in LOOPER in the current episode of THE CINECAST (as well as craft and whatnot, beyond nitpicks and time-travel paradoxes, albeit those are in there too.)

Rick Vance
Guest
Kurt Halfyard
Guest

How Looper Should have ended **SPOILERS**

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