Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rian Johnson|
|Written by||Rian Johnson|
|Music by||Nathan Johnson|
|Edited by||Bob Ducsay|
|Box office||$176.5 million|
Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action thriller film written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. In the film, time travel is invented by the year 2074 (although it is immediately outlawed) and is used by criminal organizations to send those they want killed into the past where they are killed by "loopers", assassins paid with silver bars strapped to their targets. Joe, a looper, encounters himself when his older self is sent back in time to be killed.
An American-Chinese co-production, Looper was selected as the opening film of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Since its release, it has been critically acclaimed, with much of the praise going to its acting, originality, and action sequences. It was released in Australia on September 27, 2012, and in the US and the UK on September 28, 2012 by TriStar Pictures and FilmDistrict in the US, and Entertainment One in the UK.
In 2044, 25-year-old Joe works for a Kansas City crime syndicate as a "looper." Time travel was invented in 2074, but was immediately outlawed. Managed by a man sent from the future named Abe, loopers kill and dispose of victims sent back in time and are paid with bars of silver strapped to the target, whose face is hidden by a bag. When a looper is retired, his future self is sent back to 2044 as a target for his younger self, but with gold bars as a payment. This event is referred to as "closing the loop"; failing to close the loop is punishable by execution.
Joe's best friend Seth, part of a minority that has manifested low-level telekinetic abilities, confides that he failed to close his own loop, and that his future self warned him of a mysterious lawless person called the Rainmaker, a telekinetic in the future who has overthrown the five major crime bosses and is ending the loopers' contracts. Joe reluctantly hides Seth in his apartment's secret floor safe, but the place is searched and Joe is taken to Abe by Kid Blue, one of Abe's elite gangsters known as "Gat Men." Given the choice of revealing Seth's hiding place or forfeiting half of the silver he has hoarded, Joe betrays Seth. Abe's men cut an address into Seth's arm, then begin severing parts of his body, causing his older self's body parts to disappear one by one and compelling him to go to the address, where he is then killed.
When Joe's next target arrives, it is his own older self, with his face uncovered. Before Joe can close his loop, Old Joe shields himself with the gold bars, knocks younger Joe unconscious and escapes. Returning to his apartment, Young Joe fights with Kid Blue, only to fall off a fire escape and black out.
In another timeline, Young Joe kills his older self as he arrives with a bag on his head. He moves to Shanghai, where his drug addiction and partying persist. After running low on money, he becomes a hitman. Many years later he meets a woman during a bar fight; the two fall in love and marry. Thirty years after he killed his older self, Joe is taken to close the loop, but his wife is killed in the process. Overpowering his captors, Joe sends himself back to 2044 unbound and unmasked, and escapes from his younger self, thus creating the alternative timeline. When Old Joe sees Young Joe fall from the fire escape, he drags him to a safe location.
Memories of both timelines seem to coexist in Old Joe's mind, becoming either clear or dim as their probabilities change. Old Joe explains to Young Joe that he is going to kill the Rainmaker as a child to change the future and save his wife. Kid Blue and several other Gat Men arrive, and a gunfight ensues. Young Joe ends up with a corner of Old Joe's map containing one of three locations circled on the map and a number.
Young Joe heads to the marked place, a farm where Sara and her son Cid live. Sara recognizes the number on the map as Cid's birthday along with the code of the hospital where he was born. Young Joe guesses that Old Joe is going to kill all three children born that day, not knowing which one will become the Rainmaker. Joe waits at the farm for his older self.
Jesse, another Gat Man, comes looking for both Joes. Young Joe successfully hides himself and Cid from Jesse; later that night Sara and Young Joe have sex. In the morning, Young Joe awakes to find that Jesse has returned and has Sara at gunpoint in the living room. Hearing the arguing, Cid falls down the stairs and becomes upset, triggering an enormous telekinetic blast that kills Jesse, revealing that Cid is a powerful telekinetic and the future Rainmaker. Young Joe realizes that Old Joe now knows Cid's abilities as well.
Kid Blue captures Old Joe and takes him to Abe. Old Joe breaks free and kills Abe and many of his men. Old Joe then travels to Sara's farm. While Young Joe kills Kid Blue, Old Joe pursues Sara and Cid, eventually shooting at Cid, with the bullet grazing his cheek. Cid creates another telekinetic blast, but is calmed by Sara before he can kill her and Old Joe. Telling Cid to run into the cane field, Sara stands in Old Joe's line of sight to shield her son. Young Joe, seeing Old Joe about to shoot Sara, realizes the event will turn Cid into the Rainmaker. Too far away to prevent it, he kills himself, erasing Old Joe, saving Sara and potentially preventing Cid from becoming the Rainmaker.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Young Joe
- Bruce Willis as Old Joe
- Emily Blunt as Sara
- Paul Dano as Young Seth
- Frank Brennan as Old Seth
- Noah Segan as Kid Blue
- Piper Perabo as Suzie
- Jeff Daniels as Abe
- Pierce Gagnon as Cid
- Xu Qing as Joe's Wife
- Tracie Thoms as Beatrix
- Garret Dillahunt as Jesse
- Nick Gomez as Dale
- Marcus Hester as Zach
Looper was written and directed by Rian Johnson. After Johnson released The Brothers Bloom in 2008, he re-teamed with producer Ram Bergman, who produced Johnson's previous two films, with the goal of starting production of Looper in 2009. In May 2010, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast in one of the lead roles, which he would play after completing Premium Rush. Later in the month, Bruce Willis was also cast. In the following October, Emily Blunt joined Gordon-Levitt and Willis. Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Piper Perabo were cast in January 2011. Filming began in Louisiana on January 24, 2011.
Makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji created the prosthetics that Gordon-Levitt wore in the film so that he would physically resemble Willis. The film's score was composed by Nathan Johnson, Rian Johnson's cousin.
Talking about Looper and time travel in film, Rian Johnson said:
Even though it's a time-travel movie, the pleasure of it doesn't come from the mass of time travel. It's not a film like Primer, for instance, where the big part of the enjoyment is kind of working out all the intricacies of it. For Looper, I very much wanted it to be a more character-based movie that is more about how these characters dealt with the situation time travel has brought about. So the biggest challenge was figuring out how to not spend the whole movie explaining the rules and figure out how to put it out there in a way that made sense on some intuitive level for the audience; then get past it and deal with the real meat of the story.
Looper premiered on September 6, 2012 at the opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival. The film was then released theatrically in the United States on September 28, 2012 by FilmDistrict, who obtained the domestic rights from production company Endgame Entertainment at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. In turn, FilmDistrict chose to release the film with TriStar Pictures.
The Chinese release of the film reintegrates a substantial number of scenes set in Shanghai. The move was requested by Chinese production company DMG Entertainment in order to further appeal to Chinese audiences. Several of these scenes were shortened or cut for the American release.
Johnson released a free audio commentary on SoundCloud to be downloaded and listened to during the film, with the warning: "Needless to say, this is NOT to be listened to on a first viewing, or before you've seen the film."
Looper opened on September 28, 2012, in 2,992 theaters in North America and grossed $20,801,522 in its opening weekend averaging $6,952 per theater and ranking #2 at the box office. The widest release of the film in the U.S was 2,993 theaters and it ended up earning $66,486,205 domestically and $110,020,614 internationally for a total of $176,506,819, well above its $30 million production budget. Audiences polled by the market research firm CinemaScore gave the film a B+ grade on average.
Looper received positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes as of March 2015, the film has a rating of 93%, based on 246 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The critical consensus reads, "As thought-provoking as it is thrilling, Looper delivers an uncommonly smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action." On Metacritic the film has a score of 84 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, calling it "an engaging, neatly worked-out time-travel sci-fi thriller", but also criticizing the effects involved in making Gordon-Levitt resemble Willis: "At first, the effect is a bit odd, and you can't quite put your finger on what's off; then it feels downright weird to be looking at a version of Gordon-Levitt who is no longer the actor you've known for a few years now."
Peter Debruge of Variety also gave the film a positive review, writing that writer-director Johnson's "grandly conceived, impressively mounted third feature shows a giddy, geeky interest in science-fiction, then forces it into the back seat and lets the multidimensional characters drive. In a genre infamous for loose ends, this thinking man's thriller marshals action, romance and a dose of very dark comedy toward a stunning payoff."
Kim Newman of Empire magazine gave Looper 5 stars out of 5, writing, "Intelligent science-fiction sometimes seems an endangered species—too much physics and there's a risk of creating something cold and remote, too many explosions and get lost in the multiplex. Looper isn't perfect, but it pulls off the full Wizard Of Oz: it has a brain, courage and a heart." Noel Murray of The A.V. Club gave the film an A− grade, writing, "Looper is a remarkable feat of imagination and execution, entertaining from start to finish, even as it asks the audience to contemplate how and why humanity keeps making the same rotten mistakes." Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, writing, "Looper is way inventive but it wears its creativity lightly, like it's no big deal. This is a highflying, super-stylish science-fiction thriller that brings a fresh approach to mind-bending genre material. We're not always sure where this time-travel film is going, but we wouldn't dream of abandoning the ride."
Claudia Puig of USA Today gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, writing, "Looper 's heady blend of time travel, gritty action and a jot of romance is such a thrilling and cerebral mind-bender that it will likely have moviegoers gathering outside the theater afterward to hash out details of its intricately constructed universe. Not that that's a bad thing." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, praising the performances of Willis and Gordon-Levitt and concluding, "Lacing tremendously exciting action with touching gravity, Looper hits you like a shot in the heart." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, praising its screenplay and writing, "Looper, a smart and tricky sci-fi story, sidesteps the paradoxes of time travel by embracing them. Most time travel movies run into trouble in the final scenes, when impossibilities pile up one upon another. This film leads to a startling conclusion that wipes out the story's paradoxes so neatly it's as if it never happened."
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B+ grade, writing, "The time swivels in Looper evoke some of Inception 's fancy temporal tricks (some of which, of course, also involved Gordon-Levitt straddling multiple time zones at once). But it's the glimpses of Children of Men-like societal dystopia that give the movie its real weight". Keith Staskiewicz, also writing for Entertainment Weekly (reviewing the DVD) and also giving a "B+", said, "The film's premise is markedly inventive, and [writer-director Rian] Johnson spends a lot of time making his universe seem lived-in and believable, but he's not just concerned with whiz-bang what-ifs. The showdown of selves illuminates just how little Gordon-Levitt's character has changed over the intervening years, stuck as he is in a feedback loop of drug use and violence despite his pipe dream of moving to Europe. The retro trench coats and firearms also suggest a sort of eternal recurrence, and as Looper's plot gets more complex, its central question simplifies: If we can't fix our mistakes, can we at least make sure we don't repeat the same ones over and over again?"
Richard Corliss of Time magazine gave the film a positive review, calling Looper a "hybrid, mashing Quentin Tarantino and Philip K. Dick into a species of pulp science fiction" and also writing, "A fanciful film with the patina of hyper-realism, Looper is well served by actors who behave not as if they were dropped carelessly into the future but spent their whole desperate lives there." Dana Stevens of Slate gave the film a mixed review, writing, "Looper felt to me like a maddening near-miss: It posits an impossible but fascinating-to-imagine relationship – a face-to-face encounter between one's present and future self, in which each self must account for its betrayal of the other – and then throws away nearly all the dramatic potential that relationship offers."
Awards and nominations
Top ten lists
The film was included in the following top ten lists for the best films of 2012:
|New York Post||8|
|The Huffington Post||10|
|The Atlantic Wire||N/A|
The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD in North America on December 31, 2012. The film was also released on January 28, 2013 in online UK stores and a general release on February 4, 2013. The film made $20,583,583 in domestic DVD sales and $11,468,974 from domestic Blu-ray sales for a total of $32,052,557
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- Ian Stasukevich. "Payback Time". American Cinematographer. Vol. 93, No. 10. October 2012. ISSN 0002-7928. Hollywood: California. Pages 64–70, 72–75. Behind-the-scenes article focusing on the film's camera work, lighting, etc. 11 pages, 20 photos.
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