Movie Review of Looper (2012)

by JoHarrington

A time travel action movie, which will have you talking about the intricacies of the plot long after the credits have rolled. With Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Emily Blunt.

We argued all the way home about how the movie had ended. We had each read something differently into it; and we were adamant that we were right.

Yet one thing we were all agreed on - that ending was stunning! The rest of the film wasn't bad either, but it's been a while that a movie has quite took my breath away like that.

Fans of 'Inception' will love it. Action movie buffs will love the guns. Time travel aficionados will be unscrambling the interwoven stories for days.

Looper on DVD


Looper is a Science Fiction Movie about Time Travel

And it's also an action movie about mob violence; and a human interest story about parenthood and love; and a supernatural tale; and...

I feel like I've just seen ten different movies, all wrapped up in the same two hours.  Yet it really worked.

There were moments when I was wilting - too many big guns, and people getting up when they had just been left for dead on the floor.  There were other times when I had my hand over my mouth, shocked at the audacity and horror of the storyline. 

Yet more scenes had me pressed back in my seat, hardly daring to breathe in case I disturbed the on-screen tension at the critical point.

It sucks you in, does Looper.  You are there with the characters, cringing, smiling, ready to blast to oblivion any SoB who gets between you and your child.  Then out comes the mob machismo and you can concentrate on eating your nachos again.

Like I said, it's more than one movie, so there's bound to be something for everyone.  And the ending will blow your mind.

Official Trailer for Looper

What is Looper All About?

I'll let you know, when we've finished putting all of the pieces together. But I can tell you that it's wonderful!

Just like Inception, this is a movie where you have to pay attention. There are at least two concurrent story-lines occurring. I made it more.

You will possibly want more than one viewing, so you follow one or the other.  There will be details that are only caught when you know what you're looking for. 

However, it doesn't feel that confusing when you're watching it. It's only afterwards that kicks in.  It's when you realize that the two people sitting either side of you saw two different movies; and neither was the one that you saw.

The meat of the movie concerns what happens when the Mafia get time travel.  One mobster returned in time to recruit assassins.  It was easy to do, as society is more than a little rough in 2042 America.

Anyone who crosses the mob in 2072 is zapped back in time. They barely have a second to draw breath before, handcuffed and hooded, they are shot dead by the waiting hit-men.  Their murderers are the Loopers. 

But one day that man being killed will be yourself.  It's called 'closing the loop' and it's understood.

What is also understood are the consequences to not pulling that trigger, even against your older self.  I think I will be having nightmares for a while at the implications of what happened to one young Looper.

Joe knows this.  That is why, when his older self fights back, he is so determined to hunt him down and 'close the loop'.  But there are complications, not least that the older Joe has had thirty years more experience at this game, and an agenda of his own.

There's a sub-plot too, just to make life even more interesting.  A tenth of the population has evolved telekinesis.  By the second act of the movie, it's like flicking between The Godfather and Carrie.

But again, and I can't reiterate this enough - it works!

Special Effects in Looper

There were some scenes where my jaw actually did drop.

I know that us writers like to say that about anything vaguely exciting, but mine was accompanied with a gasp and my hand clasped over my mouth.

Given the context of time travel, you would expect that the special effects budget would be spent there.  Perhaps a decent DeLorean with the usual mod cons.

But that's not taking into account the telekinesis sub-plot.

Things do float, occasionally, with the right people around, because that's normal in this world. It's presented as so commonplace that, at first, you hardly register it. Yet it's not in every scene. It's not Harry Potter levels of pots stirring themselves.

But when it does matter, then the special effects will have you gaping at the screen.

Turning Joseph into Bruce

Joseph Gordon-Levitt looked like a young Bruce Willis.  I didn't actually notice at first, until I saw them side by side.

One of my nephews assumed it was CGI.  I thought perhaps Joseph had studied Bruce's acting and emulated it to perfection.  Then I noticed him in profile and knew it had to be more.

I've since looked it up.  It's make up and a prosthetic nose. They really did make him look like Bruce Willis.

In the forum where I checked this, there was a lot of sniffing about the creative device; particularly from Joseph Gordon-Levitt's legion of young fans. 

But in truth it barely distracted from anything. The action and plot-lines were too intense to linger upon cosmetic issues for long. I was able to easily accept that Joseph was a young Bruce Willis and that was that.

Looper - International Trailer

Are There Plot-Holes in Looper?

This was the subject of the biggest debate in my car on the way home.

I personally think that there were two very big and related plot holes.  My eldest nephew thinks that I just haven't put it all together yet.

I explained it.  He explained it. Neither of us quite got what the other was saying.  And my youngest nephew was too busy catching up with his text messages to comment by this point.

I can't go into the nitty-gritty without giving spoilers here.  This is a non-spoiler review, so I won't go there.

Also the movie is too newly released at the theaters for the internet to have put its collective heads together. The debates that I have read mirror those that we had in my car.

I maintain that the plot-holes are there. My nephew and exactly half of the internet disagree.

Very Special Mention for Pierce Gagnon

When a large portion of plot-line relies upon a child actor, it's always worrying. But not in Looper.

I recall coming out of the cinema after seeing Sixth Sense for the first time. There was a lot of emotional baggage and plot-line moment to assimilate there, but one thing shone with absolute clarity.  Haley Joel Osment was an amazing child actor.

I felt very much the same stepping out of the screening of Looper. Pierce Gagnon was just five years old when he filmed those scenes. He had extensive dialogue and he had to react to a lot of different situations.

Frankly, I was stunned by his acting. It was an astounding performance. I assumed that they had found a talented, but baby-faced and very short ten year old.  Though he did look a little too young.  Maybe more miracles rendered in the make up department?

No, Pierce Gagnon actually IS five years old.  Color me impressed.

On the subject of casting, there wasn't a dud anywhere in the credits. Everyone acted their hearts out and vied with one another to be the best. I should imagine that the Oscars are going to be peppered with many names from this film.

As an aside, and back to young Pierce, it amused the three of us to note that his character's name was Cid Harrington.  On behalf of my nephews and myself, I'd like to welcome him to our family.

Note About the Looper Score

As a fiction writer, I do love movie soundtracks. They are designed to build tension and be emotive, so they're great to have on when you're writing.

The music for Looper is something which I want to revisit. It did its job marvelously well in context, particularly in the club scenes.  It's the music that lets us experience what coming up on drugs feels like.

Heavy percussion is the most noticeable element, which gets my vote any day.

Composer Nathan Johnson is the cousin of Looper's director, Rian Johnson. This is a soundtrack that was kept in the family!

Looper (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Looper (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Looper Does NOT Pass the Bechdel Test

Which is a crying shame, because in every other regard it's a brilliant movie.

The Bechdel Test asks that there are more than one named female characters.  They must have a conversation with each other; and that can't be about any of the male characters.

Looper had an extremely strong female lead in the second part of the movie. Sara Harrington was Feminism personified! 

She ran a farm and home by herself. She chopped wood, fixed machinery and single-handedly raised her child.  Cross her threshold and you are going to get a gun in your face.  She wasn't afraid to express her sexuality; face down assassins; nor get her hands dirty in a host of other ways.  Yet she was still decent in the kitchen too.

Wonderful!  But for the fact that she never once even saw another female character, let alone chatted with them.

The other two ladies were the stereotypical whore with a heart and doting angel-of-the-house wife.  They didn't meet each other either.

So Looper scored a total of one out of three in the Bechdel Test, which really isn't good enough given how low the bar is there.

Three questions are asked of each movie. They are so simple that it would be harder to fail than pass. They examine the role of females in that film. Nearly half fail.
Updated: 05/17/2013, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 10/20/2012

I'm really looking forward to seeing that one too. I read your review of it. :) But yes, Looper seriously does feed and feed. I really need to watch it again.

Jerrico_Usher on 10/19/2012

I downloaded ths right after seeing your review (just the outside icon in the list on the front page)... I was astounded by this movie- the ending left too much to the imagination but the movie sure fed it didn't it? I watched it 3 times before it all sunk completely in (well 2 but the third was still awakening)... I can't wait now to see the next one in the inception/looper/awesometastic movies- by the wachowski brothers no doubt- CLOUD ATLAS! (I wrote a review myself on that one).

JoHarrington on 10/12/2012

You're welcome and PLEASE come back to me when you have. It's taken over my mind! I want to chat with someone about it all. :)

Mira on 10/12/2012

Well, I look forward to this movie!:-) Thanks, Jo!

JoHarrington on 10/06/2012

*smirks* Yeah. And I went to the pictures in the middle of it. Workaholics-R-Us.

kate on 10/06/2012

four in one day Jo? Impressive!

JoHarrington on 10/06/2012

Precisely! Nor would it have changed the story in any way if Cid had been a little girl, instead of a boy. So many ways around the Bechdel Test here!

Mike_W on 10/05/2012

You're right, some of the Loopers could have been female too.

JoHarrington on 10/05/2012


Sorry, I've only got as far as you saying that there WERE plot-holes. That's back up for me in the debate with my nephew!

Time to read the rest of the comment.

Rian Johnson did say that he wanted the time travel element, in order to explore the psychology, rather than the science. His main inspiration was actually 'Witness'. But I could have made it more watertight. In fact, I bet that a million fan fiction writers will plug those plot holes with utter genius, in the coming years.

There were so many cast members. Some of them could have been female without any part of the plot being otherwise changed. You could argue that the Mob are traditionally female, but this is set in 2042 and 2072. One Mafia boss was revealed to be transsexual a few years ago. Give us another thirty years and the mob will be over-run with women.

Mike_W on 10/05/2012

I enjoyed Looper, but thought that it maybe wasn't as good as I was told it would be. However, I am happy to reconsider that after re-watching (will wait for DVD).
It is virtually impossible to have a time travel movie without plot holes. I believe Looper had some huge holes there, but I don't think it set out to be watertight in that department. In one scene one character says to another not to worry about the science. That was a bit clunky, but at least it made the movie's intentions clear.
Interesting thoughts on the Bechdel test. Maybe it can get extra credit for just how good the Emily Blunt character was and considering she didn't really talk with anyone out at the farm. Only her son and two visitors. Agree - the other two female characters were just phoned in plot devices.

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