Looper (film)

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Looper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRian Johnson
Produced by
Written byRian Johnson
Music byNathan Johnson
CinematographySteve Yedlin
Edited byBob Ducsay
Distributed byTriStar Pictures[1]
Release date
  • September 6, 2012 (2012-09-06) (TIFF)
  • September 28, 2012 (2012-09-28) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$30 million[4]
Box office$176.5 million[4]

Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action film[4] written and directed by Rian Johnson, and produced by Ram Bergman and James D. Stern. It stars Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. It revolves around "present-day" contract killers called "loopers" hired by criminal syndicates from the future to terminate victims that they send back through time.

Looper was selected as the opening film of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in the United States on September 28, 2012.[5][6] The film received critical acclaim and was a box office success, grossing $176 million worldwide on a $30 million budget.


In 2044, 25-year-old Joe works for a Kansas City crime syndicate as a "looper". Since future tracking systems have made it near-impossible to dispose of bodies, the syndicate uses time travel, invented thirty years later and instantly outlawed. Managed by a future man named Abe, loopers kill and dispose of face-concealed victims, and are paid with silver bars strapped to the target. To prevent connections to the syndicate, a looper's final victim will be his or her retired future self (they are identified by gold bars strapped to them instead of silver), ending the contract and "closing the loop".

Joe's friend Seth, part of a minority that manifests low-level telekinesis (or TK), confides that his old self has escaped, after warning him of a person in the future called the Rainmaker who will overthrow the five major bosses and close all loops. Joe reluctantly hides Seth in his apartment's floor safe, but is taken to Abe by Kid Blue, one of Abe's elite "Gat Men". Joe reveals Seth's location instead of forfeiting half his silver and Abe's men cut an address into younger Seth's arm, then begin severing Young Seth's body parts. These effects appear on Old Seth, who goes to the address and is killed.

When Joe's next target arrives, it is his older self with his face uncovered and hands unbound. Before Joe can kill him, Old Joe shields himself, knocks Young 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. He moves to Shanghai, where his drug addiction and partying persist, becoming a hitman to finance himself. Years later, he meets a woman during a bar fight and they marry. Seven years after, Joe is taken to close the loop and his wife is killed in the process. Overpowering his captors, Joe sends himself back to 2044, thereby altering history. When Old Joe arrives, he evades and incapacitates Young Joe before escaping.

Old Joe begins to manifest vague memories of Young Joe's actions in the present, and meets his younger self at a diner. He explains that he intends to save his wife by killing the Rainmaker as a child. Kid Blue and several other Gat Men arrive at the diner and a gunfight ensues. Young Joe collects a corner of Old Joe's map as both escape.

Young Joe follows the map to a farm where a woman called Sara and her son Cid live. Sara recognizes a number on the map as Cid's birthday and hospital code. Young Joe guesses that Old Joe is going to kill all three children born on the same day, not knowing which one will become the Rainmaker, so he stays at the farm to wait for Old Joe.

Jesse, another Gat Man, comes looking for both Joes at the farm, but Cid and Young Joe hide. Later that night, Sara and Young Joe have sex and Sara reveals that she has above-average TK powers. Cid's powers are revealed to be even stronger, with Sara hiding in a safe when he has a tantrum. In the morning, Young Joe wakes to find Jesse holding Sara at gunpoint in the living room. Frightened, Cid falls down the stairs and kills Jesse using telekinesis. Young Joe realizes that Cid will become the Rainmaker and that Old Joe will now know this from his memories.

Kid Blue captures Old Joe and takes him to Abe. Old Joe breaks free and kills Abe and his henchmen, before travelling to Sara's farm. While Young Joe kills Kid Blue, Old Joe pursues Sara and Cid. Cid's face is grazed by a bullet and he creates a telekinetic blast, but is calmed by Sara before he can kill them. Telling Cid to run into the cane field, Sara stands between Old Joe and her son. Realizing that Sara's death will turn Cid into the Rainmaker, Young Joe commits suicide, erasing Old Joe's existence, saving Sara and preventing Cid from becoming the Rainmaker.



Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt speaking at WonderCon 2012 in promotion of Looper.

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.[7] In May 2010, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was cast in one of the lead roles, which he would play after completing Premium Rush.[8] Later in the month, Bruce Willis was also cast.[9] In the following October, Emily Blunt joined Gordon-Levitt and Willis.[10] Noah Segan, Jeff Daniels, and Piper Perabo were cast in January 2011.[11] Filming began in Louisiana on January 24, 2011.[12][verification needed]

Makeup artist Kazuhiro Tsuji created the prosthetics that Gordon-Levitt wore in the film so that he would physically resemble Willis.[13] The film's score was composed by Nathan Johnson, Rian Johnson's cousin.[14]

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.[14]

Other influences cited by Rian Johnson include The Terminator, Witness, Akira,[15] Domu: A Child's Dream, 12 Monkeys, Timecrimes, and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World.[16]


Looper premiered on September 6, 2012, at the opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival.[17] The film was then released theatrically in the United States on September 28, 2012[18] 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.[19]

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.[20]

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."[21]


Box office[edit]

Looper opened on September 28, 2012, in 2,992 theaters in North America and grossed US$20,801,522 in its opening weekend averaging US$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 US$66.5 million domestically and US$110 million internationally for a total of US$176.5 million, against its US$30 million production budget.[22]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 93% based on 253 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."[23] On Metacritic the film has a score of 84 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[24] Audiences polled by the market research firm CinemaScore gave the film a B+ grade on average.[25]

James Mottram of Total Film gave Looper 5 stars out of 5, concluding that it was "the best sci-fi movie since Moon. The best time-travel yarn since 12 Monkeys. And one of the best films of 2012."[26]

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."[27]

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."[28]

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."[29] 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."[30] 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."[31]

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."[32] 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."[33] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times also gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, praising its screenplay, stating "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."[34]

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".[35] 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?"[36]

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."[37] 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."[38]


Award Nominees Result
National Board of Review Award for Best Original Screenplay[39] Rian Johnson Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay[40] Rian Johnson Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Screenplay[41] Rian Johnson Nominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie [42] Looper Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Original Screenplay[43] Rian Johnson Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Original Screenplay[44] Rian Johnson Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association Original Screenplay[45] Rian Johnson Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Original Screenplay[46] Rian Johnson Won
Online Film Critics Society Original Screenplay[47] Rian Johnson Nominated
Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form[48] Rian Johnson Nominated
Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor Ten and Under[49] Pierce Gagnon Nominated

Top ten lists[edit]

The film was included in the following top ten lists for the best films of 2012:

Publication Rank
ReelViews 1[50]
MTV 3[51]
The Skinny 4[52]
New York Post 8[53]
Total Film 9[54]
The Huffington Post 10[55]
The Atlantic Wire N/A[56]
Christianity Today 8[57]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on Blu-ray and DVD[58] in North America on December 31, 2012.[59] The film was also released on January 28, 2013 in online UK stores, with 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.[60][61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Looper". American Film Institute. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Looper (2012) | BFI". British Film Institute. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  3. ^ "Looper". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved September 29, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c "Looper (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
  5. ^ "US Release Date". June 9, 2012. Retrieved June 14, 2012.
  6. ^ "UK Release Date". June 27, 2012. Retrieved June 30, 2012.
  7. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (September 17, 2008). "Rian Johnson's future target: 'Looper'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  8. ^ Kit, Borys (May 4, 2010). "Joseph Gordon-Levitt eyes two action thrillers". Reuters.
  9. ^ Fleming, Mike (May 14, 2010). "CANNES: Bruce Willis Plays Mature Joseph Gordon-Levitt In Time Travel Pic 'Looper'". Deadline Hollywood.
  10. ^ McNary, Dave (October 1, 2010). "Emily Blunt set for 'Looper'". Variety.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave; Coonan, Clifford (January 21, 2011). "Actors in 'Looper' group". Variety.
  12. ^ "Looper". Looper.
  13. ^ Whipp, Glenn (August 31, 2012). "'Looper': Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rian Johnson are a tight team". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
  14. ^ a b Kit, Borys (September 27, 2012). "'Looper' Director Rian Johnson on Reuniting With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tackling Time Travel and His Love of 'Inception' (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  15. ^ Trumbore, Dave (September 25, 2012). "Rian Johnson Talks Working with Joseph Gordon-Levitt on LOOPER, Hollywood's Lack of Originality, Future Projects and More".
  16. ^ "r/IAmA - IAm Rian Johnson, filmmaker". reddit.
  17. ^ Vlessing, Elan (September 6, 2012). "Toronto 2012: 'Looper's' Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt Bring Star Power on Opening Night". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  18. ^ McClintock, Pamela (September 29, 2012). "Box Office Report: 'Hotel Transylvania' Wins Friday, Headed For Record $38 Mil-Plus Debut". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  19. ^ McNary, Dave (May 14, 2011). "TriStar, FilmDistrict set 'Looper' deal". Variety.
  20. ^ Zeitchik, Steven (June 19, 2012). "A more Sino-centric version of 'Looper' will be released in China". Los Angeles Times.
  21. ^ "Looper Theatrical Commentary Track". SoundCloud. 2012. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  22. ^ "Looper (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  23. ^ "Looper". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  24. ^ "Looper Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved March 12, 2013.
  25. ^ McClintock, Pamela (September 30, 2012). "Box Office Report: Sony's 'Hotel Transylvania' Smashes Records With $43 Mil Opening". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  26. ^ Mottram, James (September 6, 2012). "Looper review". Total Film. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  27. ^ McCarthy, Todd (September 6, 2012). "Looper: Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  28. ^ Debruge, Peter (September 6, 2012). "Looper". Variety. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  29. ^ Newman, Kim (September 17, 2012). "Looper". Empire. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  30. ^ Murray, Noel (September 27, 2012). "Looper". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  31. ^ Turan, Kenneth (September 27, 2012). "Review: Gordon-Levitt and Willis take 'Looper' full circle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  32. ^ Puig, Claudia (September 28, 2012). "Circling, action-packed story makes 'Looper' intriguing". USA Today. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  33. ^ Travers, Peter (September 27, 2012). "Looper". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  34. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 26, 2012). "Looper". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  35. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (September 26, 2012). "Looper". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  36. ^ Staskiewicz, Keith (January 18, 2013). "DVD & Streaming: Let's Do the Time Warp Again!". Entertainment Weekly. New York: Time Inc.: 65.
  37. ^ Corliss, Richard (September 27, 2012). "Looper: (500) Days of The Terminator". Time. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  38. ^ Stevens, Dana (September 28, 2012). "Looper". Slate. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  39. ^ "National Board Of Review Best Film: 'Zero Dark Thirty'". Deadline Hollywood. December 5, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  40. ^ "The 2012 WAFCA Award Nominees". Retrieved December 9, 2012.
  41. ^ "The 18th Critics' Choice Movie Awards nominees". Broadcast Film Critics Association. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  42. ^ "Critics' Choice Movie Awards". BFCA. January 10, 2013. Archived from the original on December 12, 2012.
  43. ^ ""The Master" rules 2012 CFCA Awards with 10 Nominations". CFCA. December 14, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  44. ^ "Lincoln leads Houston Film Critic Society Awards with eight nominations Nominees". Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  45. ^ "Austin Film Critics Association". Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  46. ^ "Florida Film Critics Circle". Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  47. ^ "Online Film Critics Society". Retrieved December 28, 2012.
  48. ^ "2013 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Retrieved April 3, 2013.
  49. ^ "Nominations / Special Awards". 34th Annual Young Artist Awards. 2013. Archived from the original on April 2, 2013. Retrieved March 31, 2015.
  50. ^ James Berardinelli. "Rewinding 2012 - The Top 10". James Berardinelli. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  51. ^ "Best Movies Of 2012". MTV. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  52. ^ "Light and Shade: The Films Of 2012". The Skinny. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  53. ^ Lumenick, Lou. "Critics pick best films of 2012". New York Post. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
  54. ^ Kinnear, Simon. "50 Best Movies of 2012". Total Film. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  55. ^ Rosen, Christopher (December 7, 2012). "Best Movies of 2012". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  56. ^ Richard Lawson. "The Best (and Worst) Movies of 2012". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  57. ^ "The Most Redeeming Movies of 2012". Christianity Today. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  58. ^ "LOOPER DVD release date". February 27, 2013.
  59. ^ "Looper Blu-ray Release Date, Details and Cover Art". TheHDRoom.com. November 19, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  60. ^ "Looper Blu-ray release announced". Blu-raydisc-reporter.com. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2012.
  61. ^ "Looper - Box Office Data, DVD and Blu-ray Sales, Movie News, Cast and Crew Information". The Numbers. Retrieved March 31, 2015.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]