Retro Review: Looper

It’s getting a little tiresome to repeat variations of the same story, but here it goes again: Looper is a movie that looked interesting to me when it first released, but I missed out on it because of my Real Life issues at the time. Now it’s on Shomi, so I gave it a shot.

Jospeh Gordon-Levitt in LooperLooper is set thirty years in the future, but much of the story has its roots thirty years past then. It is then that time travel will be invented, and subsequently outlawed. This makes time travel the domain of the mafia. Since bodies are nearly impossible to dispose of discretely in the ultra-connected future, the mob eliminates its enemies by sending them back thirty years, where they are killed by “Loopers.”

Our protagonist — if you can even call him that — is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a junkie supporting himself by working as a Looper. Things go off the rails for him when he is sent to “close his loop,” to kill his future self (Bruce Willis). A moment’s hesitation allows the older Joe to escape.

Future Joe has a plan of his own. He’s after the Rainmaker, a mysterious crime lord who ordered his death, and murdered his wife in the process. Thirty years in the past, the Rainmaker is just a child, and future Joe intends to pull some Terminator shenanigans.

There are plenty of interesting ideas in Looper. It’s a novel take on time travel. And the performances are very strong. I really like Jospeh Gordon-Levitt. He’s a great actor.

I also very much like its down to earth yet futuristic art design. It’s a very believable vision of what the 2040s might look lie.

But.

The problem with Looper is that it’s a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be. It’s trying to be both an action movie and a thought-provoking piece of sci-fi, and not really succeeding at either.

Bruce Willis as the older Joe in LooperThere are some big plot holes in Looper. Supposedly the mob sends people back in time because it’s impossible to get away with murder in the future, but somehow this isn’t an issue when they kill Joe’s wife. And if the mafia has time travel, why haven’t they used it for anything better than disposing of people they don’t like?

And really there’s just nothing about the movie that gets the mind going. There are no big questions posed. It feels like a movie that wants to make you think, but it doesn’t.

So it doesn’t work as a think-piece, but at the same time, Looper is also too convoluted, dark, and slow-paced to work as a popcorn movie.

And that’s not the only way in which it’s confused. The first half of the movie seems to be entirely about Joe — both versions of him — and their bizarre conflict, but the latter half shifts focus to the Rainmaker, and in the end Joe is just a prop for his story.

And most of all, the movie is just too long. You could have cut an half hour out and not lost anything, I think.

To be fair, the ending of Looper is clever and very powerful. But boy is it a long walk to get there.

Overall rating: 6.9/10 I don’t regret seeing it, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it, either.

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3 thoughts on “Retro Review: Looper

  1. I have to agree with your thoughts. I caught it on streaming a while back and was disappointed that is fell way short of what the reviews had said about it.

  2. I watched this again recently (saw it in theaters first) and really enjoy it, mostly because I always like Bruce Willis and this is my favorite director. However I completely agree with your review! The pace and plot holes, as well as the fact it doesn’t quite work as a think piece like you said, make it an interesting but not all that incredible sci-fi movie. I don’t recommend it for everybody either.

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