Case Number 25082


Sony // 2012 // 119 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // January 7th, 2013

The Charge

Hunted by your future. Haunted by your past.

Opening Statement

Letting your loop's not a good thing.

Facts of the Case

It's 2044, and time travel hasn't been invented yet. When it is invented, it will be illegal, which means it will be used by criminals. When someone runs afoul of a crime organization, that person is tied up, hooded, and sent back to 2044, where he is executed and his body disposed of -- body disposal is nearly impossible in the future.

The assassins of 2044 are called "loopers." They are usually retired after a few years of service, with their final assignment a tough one: their future selves are transported back to be killed by their present selves. This is called "closing the loop," and 30 years down the road, an especially pernicious criminal known as the Rainmaker is in charge, and the Rainmaker seems to have made loop closing a priority.

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stop-Loss) is a looper who, like most of his kind, is aimless, decadent, but focused on what he does. Imagine his shock when one day, at the appointed place, a victim appears who is not tied or hooded. The victim and Joe lock eyes -- it's Joe from the future (Bruce Willis, Die Hard).

"Old Joe" easily escapes "Young Joe," which creates a huge problem -- loopers who fail to kill their future selves face dire consequences, consequences that might not manifest themselves for 30 years, but are dire nonetheless.

But "Old Joe" isn't just out to escape -- he wants to alter the future altogether.

The Evidence

While it's arguably the best movie about time travel since Back to the Future, Looper seems to draw its inspiration from other sources: notably, The Terminator, with more than a few Biblical references. A cerebral popcorn movie, Looper is great, intelligent entertainment that deftly maneuvers a maze of tricky twists and turns.

Writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick) offers up a pair of dystopian futures -- one 30 years from now, the other 30 years from then -- that are more accessible than most movie-versions of the future. People still live in homes with walls, and shoot guns with bullets, and drive cars that have tires (although there is a cool motorcycle hovercraft-looking device). Looper isn't a film about technology yet to come.

While it features a clever premise and terrific action sequences, there's more to Looper than just sci-fi adventure. It's a film of "What ifs?" that doesn't get bogged down in "What the hell?" moments. It's as much a meditation on a wasted life as it is a jazzed-up, finely honed B-movie mystery. If Looper tells us anything about "the future," it's about the future of neo-noir filmmaking, with all the hard edges and sad drifts of soul still in place.

Gordon-Levitt adds another fine performance to his ever-expanding gallery of flawed, offbeat characters. Over the past decade, he's matured from quirky kid to young character actor, bringing a wiry intensity to films that, in some cases, might have otherwise been little more than bland and forgettable. He is excellent here as the too-soon disillusioned, self-destructive young man who learns that future holds more than his glib, carpe diem philosophy can comprehend.

Willis is a bit of dream casting, and he brings a haunting and harrowing combination of bad-ass and sensitive to the film. Willis really was born at the right time, with his real-life aging aligned perfectly to the aging action-hero sub-genre; thus, instead of making low-rent, increasingly tired capers like Charles Bronson and Burt Reynolds did when they hit their fifties, Willis is appearing in big-budget fare that capitalizes on his comparatively advanced years, like Red and The Expendables...and this. He wears the years of a wasted life -- a life we see Gordon-Levitt's "Young Joe" live out -- like a moth-eaten coat, bringing gravitas to the film; but, he's still up for some two-handed gun play, and the film's action scenes become more exhilarating because they feature old-pro, "Old Joe" Willis.

Sony sent over the standard def release for review, and while the Blu-ray has a few more supplements (plus, I'd imagine, better tech), this disc is all around very good. Both image and sound are high-quality (as you'd expect from a recent, high-profile release).

There's a nice cache of supplements: a commentary with Johnson, Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt, who plays a woman who inadvertently figures into Old Joe's future-altering scheme; two featurettes, one a "making of," the other, "Scoring Looper," featuring the composer, Nathan Johnson, who has worked with Johnson on both his other features (Brick and The Brothers Bloom); five deleted scenes with optional commentary; and an animated trailer.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

While Johnson's storytelling is remarkable -- at times, breathtaking -- the story itself is not without problems.

Here we have an intelligent, thought-provoking film that, strangely enough, falls apart if you think about it too much. Most time travel films have inherent flaws, and Looper is no exception. The idea of altering the past to change the future is always tricky, and at times, Looper pushes things harder than other films of this type. Despite one character warning that you actually can't mess with the future, it happens quite a bit here, to the point that much of the premise would be impossible, even if you suspend disbelief enough to accept the whole time travel and assassination business.

My advice? Enjoy this cool movie for what it is and push all those pesky logic questions to the back burner.

Closing Statement

Cool science fiction fun with a serious and sobering undercurrent. Recommended.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2013 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 80
Acting: 90
Story: 85
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English
* Spanish

Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Featurettes
* Deleted Scenes
* Animated Trailer
* UltraViolet Download

* IMDb