I just saw the best sci-fi movie since Inception. Heck, it might have been better than Inception.
Looper is a real rarity, a movie about time travel that 100% makes sense and where the underlying time travel theory holds up throughout the entire film. You do not walk out puzzled by the time travel paradoxes that happened. It all works and, more than just a lame plot device, the time travel and possibilities it opens become a central theme for the film.
I am not going to get into the plot too much. All you need to know is explained in the first 5 minutes of the movie -- Time travel has been invented 30 years in the future, but has been outlawed. Still, mobsters in the future are illegally using time travel as a way to dispose of the bodies of people they want to bump off. They send the unwanted person back in time and an assassin quickly kills the person. These assassins are called Loopers and they are leading a good life with plenty of money because they have made a dangerous deal. The deal is, in 30 years the mob will kill you (to keep you from talking about all the killings you did for them) by sending you back in time and having you shoot yourself. Thus, you "close you own loop," which is why they are known as Loopers. Does that make sense?
Joseph Gordon Levitt is a Looper who botches the job when the time comes to kill his future self, played by Bruce Willis. By the way, the makeup folks gave JGL a fake nose (it is not noticeable -- looks perfect) to make him look more like future Bruce. What's more, JGL does this squinty thing with his eyes that looks exactly like Willis. It is really well done and I think you can buy them as different versions of the same person.
Unlike many futuristic sci-fi films, there is not a lot of special effects and cool future gadgets. For the most part, the future is a bleaker and more violent version of the present -- which is fine because it allows the movie to focus on the characters and the complex but satisfying story at the core of the film. By the way, the story is almost two completely different tales. For the first half of the movie, it feels a bit like an action/chase kind of film. But, in the second half, it really slows down and becomes more of an emotional drama. It takes a confident filmmaker to make this transition, but writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) pulls it off with ease. I think this film really announces Johnson as someone to watch going forward. I am dying to see what he will come up with next because Looper is so brilliantly told.
A piece of me is dying to talk with all of you about some of the incredible plot devices and developments in the film, but you are much better off not knowing what is going to happen and experiencing it "cleanly." Once the movie opens, we can have a spoilerific discussion that I am sure we will all enjoy.
Ok, I have prattled on enough without saying much of anything other than WOW! I'll stop now. Enjoy!
By the way, though this is an R rated film that includes some nudity, violence, and drug use, I would not call it a 'hard R.' Both my 15 year old and 13 year old sons saw it and it was nothing they could not handle. It is not at all gratuitous in its use of violence or nudity -- I would say almost all of it is important to the plot. As an aside, both my kids loved it!
-Jason "this is now at the top of my Best of 2012 list ahead of End of Watch, Avengers, Haywire, and Lawless... and yes I liked all those films more than I liked Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Master" Evans
This year's Academy Award program nominated Time Freak by Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey in the category of live action shorts. It is a time travel story which seemed pretty perfect as well. I don't know if you caught it, Jason, because it (and the other nominees) weren't given national screening. But its premise was more, shall we say, benign. Realistic in a science-fictiony way. Don't know if it's available on DVD.
On the other hand, if Leonard can have have a consentual romantic relationship with Penny, anything is possible.
Thanks for the heads-up Jason, sounds like the kind of movie I'll want to go see.
If Gregory House MD and Sheldon Cooper PhD were to debate, how would it end?
Guess it isn't about my favorite looper
"So I jump ship in Hong Kong and make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas. A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-galunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me, which is nice."
Whenever I see the preview and they show the scene where he shoots the guys right as they appear, blindfolded and tied up on the blanket, I can't help but think of this
Looper means I go here:
Priceless. And, I believe, ad-libbed.
A reviewer friend of mine, Renn Brown, checks in with a really good review of Looper. Certainly worth a read. Like my comments, Renn avoids telling you too much of the plot.
He closes his review with the following--
-Jason "I didn't think it was possible, but Renn might have liked it even more than I did" EvansLooper would be a contender for best film in any year it was released, and this year it stands out from all other blockbuster efforts by a large stretch. It deserves virtually every positive adjective you can throw at it and it is the kind of film with which a message can be sent to the studios that audience are hungry for ideas with their spectacle.
Looper is incredible, and you simply can not miss it.
Better than Avengers catches my attention.
I don't watch movies for much other than entertainment, and in that regard Avengers was for me an almost perfect movie.
Just saw it. Was looking forard to seeing it before JE's comments, and then even more excited. Even with HUGE expectations it matched them. Great movie. Well done. Kept thinking I could figure out the ending, but then didn't.
We'll have to see if it gets noms for Best Picture...but it sure deserves consideration (so does Avengers, by the way).
Go see this. It's great. All around.
Some wonderful lines.....one great one:
"Get the Doctor."
(and by the way, you don't want them to get the doctor)
Saw Looper this afternoon, and while I liked it, I don't think it was any where near as good as Inception or this year's Avengers. Maybe I need to see it again to really understand it. Inception was much more understandable the second viewing. Joseph Gordan Levitt was really good.
Saw the movie and loved it. The acting is very strong, the directing and editing is superb. There are several scenes that are captivating but not a word is spoken. The actors convey the emotions, but the direction and editing really make the scenes powerful. Worth a trip to the theater.
I disagree with Jason's comment that there are no problems with the consistency of the time travel vs disturbing the timeline in the story, but it is a minor issue. The story is fairly strong, but not all that novel to sci-fi fans. It is what is done with the material that makes it worth seeing.
One more here in the loved it category. Time travel is pretty much impossible to reconcile with reality so I wouldn't say the rules in the movie make sense to me, but I did find them self-consistent and well laid out. When it comes to the backstory of the Rainmaker, there are certain conclusions that are hinted at that seem more stretched to me. However, these are just hints, and I like the fact that I can choose how much I believe them.
Actually, the thing that bothers me most is the basic reason for existence of the looper. Why send back living people instead of just corpses? And what about the one person who was killed in the future without any looping fanciness? The movie takes the tack that Joe doesn't really know, and that's not what the movie is about anyway, which is fair... but it's still a bit jarring .
Anyway, loved the characters, loved the storytelling, and I'm still thinking about the movie a couple days later. So yeah, I loved it.
Ok, I think that the movie has been out for a full weekend and we can now discuss the plot and story without worrying about spoiling it for people.
1) Time Travel - I found a few inconsistencies in the time travel storyline -- the moment Seth (his Looper friend, played by Paul Dano) let his future self go, he began embarking down a path that would not allow him to ever travel back in time and be let go by his past self. What's more, as soon as the Doctor gets a hold of Seth and begins chopping off body parts (what a freaking awesome storyline that was!!!) it has a major impact on Seth's ability to become future-Seth who then comes back in time and walks away from present-Seth. Especially once the Doctor amputates his legs! At that point, it becomes impossible for future-Seth to ever walk away from present-Seth. I wasn't really bothered much by it at the time, but as I left the theater and began thinking about the movie, it really puzzled me.
I am not sure how Time Travel deals with incongruities like these. Another major one affects Joe's entire story. Think about this. Joe kills himself to prevent future-Joe from killing Sara and turning Sid into the Rainmaker. But, the moment Joe kills himself, there is no longer a threat to Sara and Sid which means it is not necessary for Joe to kill himself any more. Does future-Joe only cease to exist moving forward on the timeline or do his actions from the past few days (killing Jeff Daniels and all his men and killing the little kid,) no longer happen either? Does "Time" correct for the fact that future-Joe can no longer come back in time to do all this stuff? And, again, if he cannot come back then there is no reason for present-Joe to kill himself. It is a time travel paradox loop and, as someone said in the movie, it makes your head hurt thinking about it.
2) Loopers - The movie was never too clear about why bodies could not be disposed of in the future, but if that is the case, I can buy that. Darthur is right that the Asian woman who becomes Joe's wife is a major boo-boo in that regard. No reason you can kill her and leave her body behind as evidence but not do the same thing with future-Joe. I am not sure why they are constantly able to capture the future-Loopers alive either. Seems they would fight like crazy to not be sent back and killed by themselves and, as a result, they could get killed in the course of being captured. Why do we never hear about that happening? What's more, I would think it would be really hard to capture them as they know their 30 years of "living the good life" are about to be up and they will probably be armed to the teeth and prepared for someone coming to get them. Still, this is the premise of the movie and I suppose I can buy it.
3) Rainmaker - It was clear to me that The Rainmaker becomes who he is because his mother, Sara, is killed by a Looper. With her by his side he can probably learn to control his incredible power and not be a bad dude. It was also clear to me that the Rainmaker was extracting vengeance on the Loopers for his mother's death. Recall from early in the movie that Joe comments about a lot of future-Loopers are being sent back to "have their loop closed." I think that as the Rainmaker comes to power, he starts killing off as many Loopers as he can find. He hates them all for killing his mother. In fact, one could even argue that he turns to a life of crime specifically so he can get access to the Loopers and kill them all.
4) Joe's Solution - While it was a dramatic moment and a big surprise to the audience, I think Joe had other options aside from suicide. He could have shot his hand off, making it impossible for future-Joe to hold the gun and kill Sara. It also occurs to me that everything Joe knows is also known instantly by future-Joe, right? They make reference to this when future-Joe stops short of killing the stripper's son because present-Joe has just seen Sid's powers and figured out that he is the Rainmaker. So, if future-Joe knows everything present-Joe knows, then the moment present-Joe suddenly sees the Rainmaker's creation and decides to kill himself, future-Joe should stop trying to kill the Rainmaker and Sara. Get it? Joe does not need to kill himself because the moment he recognizes that he created the Rainmaker, the threat to the Rainmaker is gone.
Like the movie said, thinking about all this time travel stuff can really bake your noodle. I am not sure any time travel story, especially one where you are interacting with your past or future self, can ever really work when held up to this much scrutiny. The paradoxes and loops of logic are just too much to make work. But, I still loved the film and thought it did an excellent job with this stuff.
--Jason "ok, now I want to hear from you guys about all this stuff... what a great film to discuss!" Evans
Jason, you've made my head spin!!!
"Communicating" with the returned loopers by scarring the present-day loopers was an effective device - theatrically and plotwise. Young Joe did not learn of the device as used via "the doctor" - so he thought of it himself. Which makes his choice at the conclusion of the movie less understandable to me.
In explaining the dead body conundrum, I think the narration alluded to a chip or such device for tracking and identifying bodies. This would also explain why loopers couldn't escape when their "time" was up.
The movie was well done to build suspense at key moments, which gives the audience time to consider the alternatives available to the characters, which made me instantly hate Joe's final decision. I was torn between "should he shoot himself in the hand or the knee." Sure, ending it all closes the plot loop and provides a Terminator - like ending - a fresh new horizon. The narration was more than a bit heavy-handed as well at the end, I think the acting and directing had more persuasively conveyed the motivations for his choice. Frankly, I would have had Joe blow his knee off and have the picture in the watch morph into Sara.
BTW the kid is named "Cid." Could it be an "El Cid" reference?
The movie goes one step further, and even invites us to consider the possibility of a true Terminator-like time paradox: future Joe goes back in time to kill the Rainmaker because the Rainmaker kills his wife in the future, but in going back in time, Joe creates the Rainmaker. To me, this is one implication that really doesn't follow the rules of time travel from above. However, I don't feel Joe's vision is necessarily presented as the truth of what happened - it's just one possible path. The Rainmaker who killed future Joe's wife was presumably created by something similar to this (I think there was a reference to his mother getting shot right?) but I like to believe that it wasn't future Joe who did it in that timeline. This interpretation leaves some ambiguity about whether that future is really averted or not, and I like that ambiguity.3) Rainmaker - It was clear to me that The Rainmaker becomes who he is because his mother, Sara, is killed by a Looper. With her by his side he can probably learn to control his incredible power and not be a bad dude. It was also clear to me that the Rainmaker was extracting vengeance on the Loopers for his mother's death. Recall from early in the movie that Joe comments about a lot of future-Loopers are being sent back to "have their loop closed." I think that as the Rainmaker comes to power, he starts killing off as many Loopers as he can find. He hates them all for killing his mother. In fact, one could even argue that he turns to a life of crime specifically so he can get access to the Loopers and kill them all.
The do-nothing justification is some pretty complicated reasoning based on a pretty specific understanding of time travel (which does not match mine), and young Joe doesn't really understand what's going on better than us. Shooting his hand might work, but not necessarily. Future Joe would still have his other hand, which depending on your interpretation of time travel, he might have had lots of time to master shooting with, and be otherwise healthy. Meanwhile, past Joe would be pretty much incapacitated. He also had only seconds to act, so I think it's reasonable for him to take the first solution that came to mind. After witnessing Cid's little apocalypse and the conversation from the previous night, I think his own survival was no longer what he was thinking about anyway.4) Joe's Solution - While it was a dramatic moment and a big surprise to the audience, I think Joe had other options aside from suicide. He could have shot his hand off, making it impossible for future-Joe to hold the gun and kill Sara. It also occurs to me that everything Joe knows is also known instantly by future-Joe, right? They make reference to this when future-Joe stops short of killing the stripper's son because present-Joe has just seen Sid's powers and figured out that he is the Rainmaker. So, if future-Joe knows everything present-Joe knows, then the moment present-Joe suddenly sees the Rainmaker's creation and decides to kill himself, future-Joe should stop trying to kill the Rainmaker and Sara. Get it? Joe does not need to kill himself because the moment he recognizes that he created the Rainmaker, the threat to the Rainmaker is gone.
Well, we went to see Looper this afternoon, primarily based on this thread and Jason’s positive review. I had declined to read his spoilers (and haven’t, even yet).
I gotta say that this film is…well…less than I had expected. If I want to compare recent sci fi/action thriller films, I’d have to say that Inception is far superior in its…err…concept. IMO, the Matrix films are also superior.
Films like these have to be taken as a whole—not necessarily broken down by whether a particular internal motif does or does not break down upon analysis.
I know Jason and some others are strong supporters of the film because they believe the film solves the time travel conundrum. I’m not sure I agree, but that’s not why I think the film is unremarkable.
I just think it turns into a general shoot ‘em up. That’s what Willis films generally do and they are OK films, but fairly routine. To the extent that this film is supposed to have a surprise ending…ehh…not so much. In fact, I saw the suicide coming about 40 minutes into the film, well before the kinetic stuff began to make its appearance.
And…given the fact that sci fi films require a suspension of belief to begin with, adding the kinetic features toward the end required a much stronger suspension than the audience has been prepared for. Going from parlor tricks like floating quarters to explosions and homicide without much of a transition, and generated by a small child, is a step beyond for me. I think it is an author’s cop-out.
I did like the Jeff Daniels character, but then I always find Daniels to be terrific in dramatic roles. (I’m not so much of a fan of his comedies.) And I did like the child actor who played Cid. He managed to convey both sweetness and rage when required. Despite that, I can't even say that any of the lead actors did much beyond the pedestrian.
One penultimate comment. If the filmmaker is seeking to create a dark world, where there is no real society, then I’d prefer the one (story-wise) found in Children of Men or similar. This one has no acceptably credible alternate reality.
Finally, the film leans to amorality. That being so, where did Gordon-Levitt’s Joe suddenly find a sense of conscience? The Willis Joe certainly had none, and he's the more mature. Yet, he’s simply revenge-driven and willing to kill innocent children, not to mention Cid.
Anyway, we paid matinee prices. I can’t say we got our money’s worth.
I am really sorry you did not like it that much, Jim. I respect your opinion and am bummed if I let you down. I will merely say in my defense that Looper appears to be getting near-universal acclaim from critics and audiences...
... but, sadly, "NEAR-universal" means some people will not like it. I am not sure there is any movie that everyone likes
--Jason "94% on Rotten Tomatoes, 90% from Flixter, an 84 from Metacritic... those are Academy Award nominee kind of numbers" Evans