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Looper (2012)



Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 247
Fresh: 230 | Rotten: 17

As thought-provoking as it is thrilling, Looper delivers an uncommonly smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action.


Average Rating: 8.2/10
Critic Reviews: 49
Fresh: 45 | Rotten: 4

As thought-provoking as it is thrilling, Looper delivers an uncommonly smart, bravely original blend of futuristic sci-fi and good old-fashioned action.



liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 170,230

My Rating

Movie Info

In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time travel will be invented - but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a "looper" - a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good... until the day the mob decides to "close the loop," sending back Joe's future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination. -- (C) Sony

Dec 31, 2012


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All Critics (247) | Top Critics (49) | Fresh (230) | Rotten (17) | DVD (4)

I found myself dreaming of the days when Willis would take a rest from Die Hard-ing to do character cameos of unexpected depth and pathos: Pulp Fiction, Nobody's Fool, and a few others. Now he clings to stoic longevity, and shoots people.

June 14, 2013 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Yes, it's a B movie sci-fi thriller, but not many prestige pictures have this much going on underneath the surface.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

That first hour cooks. And the second hour brings Emily Blunt into the story, which is a fine thing for any second half to offer.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Tribune
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If the whole thing leaves you rubbing your temples, just a bit... well, this headache's sort of worth it.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Newark Star-Ledger
Newark Star-Ledger
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The reasoning behind all this may not reward prolonged inspection, but Johnson is smart enough to press onward with his plot, leaving us with neither the time nor the desire to linger over the logic ...

October 1, 2012 Full Review Source: New Yorker | Comments (2)
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Writer-director Rian Johnson establishes himself as an original talent who clearly believes storytelling must prevail.

September 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Richard | Comments (6)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This is the real deal, folks - intelligent, humorous, exciting entertainment that happens to be sci-fi but is by no means limited to that genre's target audience in terms of appeal.

July 17, 2013 Full Review Source:

This is a wildly entertaining film that isn't content with science and cinematic tricks. It desires, and achieves, much more.

June 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Deadspin

The ending is both daring and logical, two rarities in modern sci-fi.

May 26, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

With a heady script, stunning performances and fist-pumping action, LOOPER is the most enjoyable combination of immensely watchable yet poignant, even cerebral.

April 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Badass Digest

If it weren't for its gaping plot holes, this could be one of this century's best science fiction features.

March 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

A fresh, intelligent and action-packed addition to the time-travel anthology.

March 3, 2013 Full Review Source: Concrete Playground
Concrete Playground

Not quite the time travel story science fiction fans were hoping for, alas.

January 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Sci-Fi Movie Page
Sci-Fi Movie Page

[Looper] may be the best sci-fi thriller to hit the theaters since 1995's Twelve Monkeys.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine
Paste Magazine

Is it derivative? Not really; just a reminder that cinema, like history, is on a continuous loop, forever repeating itself.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Despite its confusing logic and ornate storyline, Looper still grabs the audience with the raw emotional storyline on the farm and the constant popping back and forth in time. It's a head-scratching ride, but a fun one nonetheless.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Austin American-Statesman
Austin American-Statesman

Call it the coolest, most complex sci-fi of 2012 and the best movie of its kind since "Inception." Pow! What a ride!

January 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Chambers
Movie Chambers

Accessible to a general audience while still having moments that will warm any film geek's heart, this is the kind of genre film that elevates the form.

December 28, 2012 Full Review Source: Twitch

The movie is morally murky, to put it lightly, and that's a bit refreshing; we're made to think about why we want the protagonists to achieve their goals.

December 17, 2012 Full Review Source:

Intelligent, extremely imaginative, visually stunning and constantly surprising, this is filmmaking of the highest order from Rian Johnson.

December 4, 2012 Full Review Source: ABC Radio (Australia)
ABC Radio (Australia)

Looper is among the cleverest, most skillfully crafted and entertaining sci-fi thrillers of the past 20 years.

November 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

The smartest, most stylish and most outright entertaining science-fiction film of the year.

October 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Star
Daily Star

Audience Reviews for Looper

Time travel sci-fi is one of my fav motifs, one where you actually have to do something really stupid to turn me away ... this film does not do that. This film maybe also stretches physics some, but it engages the imagination too, so its easily forgivable.
Gordon-Levitt (who I only yesterday saw as a talented teen in 10 Things I Hate About You, my own bit of time travel) downplays playing Willis' past self and so capably anchors this interesting haiku poetry, meditation, about how time changes how we view our own lives. Willis is always good, but the film starts dipping deep when Blunt finally enters.
Really enjoyed this, and will be looking for more from the writer/director Johnson.
April 9, 2014

Super Reviewer

Joe: That's your life, not mine. So why don't you do what old men do and die...

"Face Your Future. Fight Your Past."

What a movie. Looper is a smart time travel movie that has a new concept and that doesn't get caught up in all the technical jargon of time travel. We're given the situation of how time travel is used in the future and then the movie just goes. It takes some surprising turns along the way and ends in about as satisfactory a way as I could have imagined, and also in away that I didn't expect which is always great.

Joe is a Looper in the future. Further into the future from where Joe exists, time travel has been invented, but it is extremely illegal. The only people who use it are criminal organizations who send back the people they want dead thirty years to a looper who promptly kills and disposes of the body, which doesn't technically exist yet. A pretty genius concept. There's a guy called the Rainman in 2074 who is closing all the loops though, which means sending the future self of each looper back to get killed by themselves. When Joe's future self arrives in the past, he escapes from his past self and now both Joe's are on the run from the boss. It definitely sounds more complicated than it really is which is a testament to the tremendous directing job of Rian Johnson who allows the film to be clear and not confusing.

There's a great cast at work here. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis both play Joe and both bring a nice mix up of tone to the film. Emily Blunt, one of my favorite actresses, is great as a rural farm owner who must protect her child. Jeff Daniels has a great, smaller role as the crime boss Abe. And Paul Dano has a very brief, but altogether great role as a looper who makes the same mistake Joe does.

This is an absolute can't miss. I was completely blown away by the originality and brain of the movie. I can't recommend it enough. If you're at all a fan of time travel movies, this one is sure to be a new favorite in the sub genre. 
December 7, 2013
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

The key when making time travel films is to balance the cerebral and the visceral. Stories about time travel need to be entertaining, but they also have to work on an intellectual level, to make the most of an interesting concept. If you can't get them to be totally seamless, the next best thing is to make the film so fast-paced and entertaining that we can overlook any small inconsistencies and enjoy it as a series of ideas. Into this box we can now add Looper, which confirms Rian Johnson's status as one to watch.

It isn't too hard to spot all the films to which Looper owes even a passing debt. Johnson's other features, Brick and The Brothers Bloom, have demonstrated how cine-literate he is as a film-maker. He was inspired to become a director after watching Annie Hall, claiming to be fascinated by the different rules of film genres and how Woody Allen's film effortlessly broke so many of them. His affection for the medium shows through in everything he does, and he makes no bones about being in familiar territory.

The biggest touchstone for the film is Twelve Monkeys, Terry Gilliam's seminal sci-fi thriller which set the bar extremely high for time travel stories in the post-Back to the Future age. The comparison doesn't stop with the presence of Bruce Willis (who was at his career-best in Gilliam's film), since the films pitch the relationship between the main character's past and future self on similar levels. Both films play on the idea of changing memories within a time-loop structure, and both are essentially fatalistic, acknowledging that time travel stories are largely cautionary tales, filled with despair, loneliness and self-annihilation.

While Twelve Monkeys serves as the anchor or predecessor for many of the film's ideas, it is by no means the only film to which the narrative owes a debt. Joe's plight is similar to Captain John Anderton's in Minority Report: he goes on the run after the system he has lived by starts targeting him, with everything appearing normal to his colleagues. Cid's characterisation owes a lot to both The Omen and The Fury, with Johnson drawing on the 'demon child' archetype presented in the former and referencing the final scene of the latter in the death of Jesse.

Elsewhere there are visual nods to The Terminator in the later stages (particularly the image of the older Joe relentlessly pursuing Cid) and to Timecrimes with multiple versions of the same protagonist wandering around, just missing each other's movements. Looper is visually the most mainstream-looking film that Johnson has directed thus far, having the same glossy sheen as Source Code or any Christopher Nolan film. You could even argue that Nolan is a narrative influence: the film contains elements of both Memento and Inception in how one version of the protagonist creates or destroys the memories of the other.

While we are clearly in familiar territory, Looper does raise a number of interesting ideas which are either unique or put an interesting new twist on ideas raised on other, similar films. For starters, it presents a very clever inversion of the grandfather paradox - the idea that if you went back in time and killed your own grandfather, you would cease to exist, meaning that you could not have travelled back in the first place. Examples of this are present throughout the Back to the Future trilogy: in the first film Marty almost ceases to exist because he nearly prevents his mother and father from getting together.

The fate of the loopers is an inversion of this, since they are asked to kill their future self, thereby preventing an immediate paradox and "closing their loop". This creates an immediate difference in demeanour: people subject to the grandfather paradox often live in fear or panic, while the ex-loopers party and celebrate being released. Theirs is not an existential despair, but an empty hedonistic rush; they know they will die one day, and there's no point saving or being cautious in the meantime. Joe begins the story saving up his silver bars, but by the time he has grown old he has partied wild and found the woman of his dreams.

This latter development sets in motion events around the idea of self-fulfilling prophecies. Bruce Willis' love for his wife leads him on a path of revenge, which manifests in his desire to find and kill the child who will become the Rainmaker. But in attempting to do so, he causes the events that will bring about the Rainmaker in the first place, specifically Cid witnessing the death of Sara.

This is where Looper treads closest to Twelve Monkeys, since both Joe and Cole seem unable to stop either their own deaths or the great catastrophe that will befall mankind. Both films (up to a point) obey the terms of the Novikov self-consistency principle, which states simply that any event that could cause a paradox cannot occur, and therefore time travel cannot alter anything. But while Twelve Monkeys followed through to the end with a haunting final scene, Looper pulls out and gives us a happy ending which undoes a lot of its logic. Its ending is technically impossible, undoing much of what has gone before and thereby reducing the chance of that ending happening in the first place.

The film is also interested in the importance of parents in the formative years of children. It's easy to overplay this and reduce the film down to a treatise on parenthood, just as you cannot reduce We Need To Talk About Kevin down to the words "parents, discipline your children". Johnson contrasts Cid's careful upbringing by Sara with that of Joe, who was sold to gangsters at a very young age; he presents both parties as having some degree of dysfunction, contrasting their different methods of protection and prevention. There is also, on the sidelines, an interesting surrogate father-son relationship between Jeff Daniels' character and Joe's gun-toting rival.

Looper conveys all these interesting ideas through an intelligent and well-written script. Johnson handles the themes smartly and treats his audience like rational human beings, who don't need the entire mechanics of time travel spelled out every thirty seconds. He keeps the characters at the forefront of the story, so that we spend less time figuring out how all the strands fit together and more on the emotional response of the individuals. This ensures that we always go with the story even when things aren't resolved or make a great deal of sense.

Johnson is also confident enough to make his characters morally ambiguous. Each of the characters have a very good reason for doing what they do, and we find ourselves conflicted about which version of Joe is doing the right thing, both for himself and everyone else. Each of the main characters undergoes a little soul-searching where they question what they are doing - Bruce Willis, for instance, pictures his wife and openly weeps when he is killing the children in his search for the Rainmaker.

Not only can Johnson write well, but his direction is highly entertaining. Looper is very fast-paced, with a good balance of action and drama: after the opening exposition dump, it zips along very nicely and tells its story with great efficiency. The action scenes occasionally feel too standard: Willis' machine-gunning everyone down feels like a leftover from the Die Hard films. But the film makes up for this with good special effects and some very effective make-up to make us believe that Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt could be related.

The performances in Looper are generally very good. WIllis and Gordon-Levitt are very convincing as the different versions of Joe, and even without the accurate make-up they spark off each other, especially in the diner scene. Emily Blunt continues to impress in roles that require a blend of steeliness and vulnerability; she has more to work with here than in The Adjustment Bureau and has great screen presence. Unfortunately, the film also confirms how annoying Paul Dano is an actor. He seems incapable of playing anything other than mopey teenagers or whingers, and Johnson is very wise to kill him off early.

Looper is a really entertaining sci-fi action thriller which demonstrates Johnson's great skill as a director. Its time travel logic and causality don't entirely hold up to scrutiny, but it has more than enough interesting ideas and emotional depth to carry it through, thanks to good writing and a very efficient hand behind the camera. It's no Twelve Monkeys, make no mistake, but until we get another of those it will do quite nicely.
September 20, 2013
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

Unique concept, thoroughly enjoyable and one not to be missed!
September 1, 2013
Film Crazy

Super Reviewer

    1. Joe: My life? Your life!
    – Submitted by Idan N (12 months ago)
    1. Joe: So I changed it.
    – Submitted by Tomer H (13 months ago)
    1. Old Joe: [speaks French]
    2. Joe: What?
    3. Old Joe: You'll get it someday. Well, obviously.
    – Submitted by Zoe S (15 months ago)
    1. Joe: It's like this whole town. Big heads, small potatoes.
    – Submitted by John K (15 months ago)
    1. Old Joe: I don't want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we're going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.
    – Submitted by Sawyer B (15 months ago)
    1. Joe: Then I saw it, I saw a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, a boy, angry & alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it & the path was a circle, round & round. So I changed it.
    – Submitted by Shyam N (16 months ago)
View all quotes (36)

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Latest News on Looper

January 3, 2013:
Parental Guidance: Promised Land, The Impossible, and Looper
With the holiday season officially behind us, we're relatively short on family-friendly viewing this...
December 24, 2012:
RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Smart Sci-Fi Flick Looper
Last week was the longest RT on DVD article of the year, and this week, we've got the shortest RT on...
October 5, 2012:
Rian Johnson Records Free Downloadable Looper Commentary Track
Something you can listen to on your iPod during repeat screenings.
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