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The first thing you notice is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face. Has the star of ‘Inception’ lost a fight with an orbital sander? His nose is oddly flat, his forehead unnaturally smooth. It’s distracting – which is a problem, because ‘Looper’ offers the kind of head-bending sci-fi that you don’t want to be distracted from. Look away, and you’ll miss something important.

The face is intentional, of course: like a futuristic take on the surgerised celebrity lookalikes in ‘LA Confidential’, Gordon-Levitt has had a digital facelift to make him resemble Bruce Willis. In fact his character, gangland assassin Joe, is destined to become Willis, drop back through a portal in time and confront his ‘current’ self. Confused? If you pay attention, you won’t be.

The plot of writer-director Rian Johnson’s third feature is far too convoluted to explain: let’s just say it involves time travel, organised crime, future terrorism, death, loss, hope, regret and genetic mutation. But it’s to Johnson’s credit that, for the attentive viewer, none of these frantic plot contortions ever becomes bewildering: ‘Looper’ lays out a wealth of clever, intriguing concepts lucidly and with precision.

Not that any of these ideas is particularly new. Both the time-travel structure and a late-arriving, even more compelling subplot involving Emily Blunt as an isolated woman with a unique child are familiar from decades of sci-fi, notably ‘The Terminator’, ‘Twelve Monkeys’ and Jerome Bixby’s wonderful 1953 short story ‘It’s a Good Life’ (memorably adapted for ‘The Twilight Zone’).

But, as with his 2005 debut ‘Brick’, it’s how Johnson organises these elements that makes ‘Looper’ special. Nothing is predictable or comfortable: both the beautifully designed world of Kansas City 2042 and the characters who inhabit it feel entirely real, but also consistently surprising and often disconcerting. As the older version of Joe, brutalised by grief and self-hatred, Willis has never played such an unsympathetic role: although both Gordon-Levitt and Blunt give strong performances, it’s Willis you’ll remember. With this and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, he’s on a roll.

‘Looper’ isn’t the super-smart sci-fi masterpiece many had hoped for: logically, it doesn’t quite add up, and there are slow spells. But if Johnson’s main aim was to strike a balance between conceptual cleverness and multiplex thrills, he could hardly have done better. This is a hugely satisfying, enjoyable and thoughtful movie.

By: Tom Huddleston


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday September 28 2012
Duration: 118 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Rian Johnson
Screenwriter: Rian Johnson
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Bruce Willis
Jeff Daniels
Emily Blunt
Paul Dano

Average User Rating

2.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:2
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:7
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:4
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Never got round to seeing this and now it's on Netflix I indulged my curiosity. It's a time travel movie so of course it's full of paradoxes and this being about time loops, even more so. You end up asking yourself about if this is the first loop, a mid-loop, what happens when it breaks down etc. Probably worth watching multiple times to get the full idea of the movie as it's a tad confusing. Failing that take a look on Google to read the fan theories and explanations. It bends your brain and has both good and bad moments. It's no Inception but enjoyable.

This film is terrible! It started so well, with such a cool idea, with the highlight being where the man loses his limbs as his past self is slowly dismembered..... And then the film loses all sense of direction and ends up being the omen.

Two stars for the dismembering & concept, zero for the rest of the film.

Finally got round to seeing it but what a disappointment. Clever idea (too clever?) but not involving enough. All three films from this very over-rated writer/director have been a let-down.

Heard some people saying it was a "must see" movie, so I saw it. Must say I was underwhelmed. Neither a good action movie or interestingly thought provoking. Could say it was neither here nor there but maybe that is what time travel does to you

Just the sort of film Michael Haneke made Funny Games for. Terrible and quite distasteful in places in that disturbing way some modern films seem to lack morality - the child target, the constant repetitive shotgun assassinations, casually expecting us to enjoy the sight of hooded figures kneeling on tarpaulins being blasted across a field. And then we are expected to like the assassin! Why couldn't they just have beamed the victims straight into the furnace and given us all a break? I agree with others, it is an amalgam of other films, painting by numbers it is terribly acted, what a cliche the Emily Blunt character is. Painful to watch.

I really thought TimeOut film reviews were good, however if you have given the movie Loopers more than 2 stars you have lost your skills. The movie is no good: 1. The story idea is good but not well thought out in the scenes or storyline, and so amateur. 2. In a fictional movie, especially for the most part pointless like this one, there is no justification for depicting assassinating a child. 3. Bruce Willis cannot act. 4. It is neither original nor a well drafted or performed story and so not any good. Michael

I think this was an attempt to make a cult sci-fi movie like Blade Runner but it didn't work. I wouldn't say it was bad just not a 4 star, 3 star more than adequate.

This movie was wholly disappointing, I just did not care about the characters. The little kid with crazy powers was just always going to happen and was hideously cliché. It felt like Bruce Willis didn't even show up for this film. Thumbs down

pooper more like...another bruce willis botch up ,go back in time & shoot the writer & anyone else to do with this yarn

Yes i agree his eyebrows are drawn on!Also if they wanted to make him look like Willis when he was younger they couldve stuck some dumbo ears with an earlobe on J.G.Levitt according to Willis' ears. In saying that J.G.Levitt done well to try and recreate Willis' acting with some spot on facial expressions & way he talks. Plot was too long. Anyway that was about it for me.Yes you can hear enthusiasm too,not! 3 star

Anatomy of a movie 18% terminator 15% twelve monkeys 13% timecop 12% back to the future 10% la jetee 8% timecrimes 7% butterfly effect 6 % matrix

I really enjoyed this, despite Joseph Gordon-Levitt's weird eyebrows and the huge plot inconsistencies. It kept me guessing, and was humorous, horrific and had some convincing special effects, and an unusual structure to the story. Haven't a clue why the posters say it's like the Matrix - it's nothing like the matrix! It's very much like Terminator.

Nice to have a sci-fi film that has you constantly thinking. The special effects are nicely done and not over-used (often they're in long shot, which directors seem to forget is possible) but it's the plot that I enjoyed most. There's some excellent acting, especially from the boy. A great film. Please don't make a sequel...

Inventive sci-fi action thriller which might have benefitted from 5 or so minutes being trimmed off the running time. Very enjoyable.

A mashup of previous films, so easy to guess how the arch is going to land. My, hasn't JGL changed since Mysterious Skin!

So... Organised crime gangs 30 years in the future have a TIME MACHINE, and they only use it as a body disposal unit??

I liked it a lot. It is a smart film that constantly engages you. It asks some very deep questions about life, love and just what you would do to protect the one you love. Almost as good as the Dark Knight. Excellent performances from Levitt, Blunt and Willis. Go see.

its emperors new clothes like inception.. people cant explain the plot so they pretend how ambigous it is.. its boring and slow ...the lead is wooden and it riffs every horror movie from carrie,the omen,the stand,matrix,butterfly kiss and i swear a nod to leone do all critics check metacritic to make sure they all have the same score 3 stars max and one is for emily blunt

Just brilliant. I've been a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt for a long while and the incredible effects on his face in this film work superbly. He comes across almost as a young De Niro. It's impossible to summarise this film and the trailer doesn't help much. Suffice to say that it's a real gem. There are some profoundly moving moments and I would definitely recommend this as one of my favourite films of 2012.

Just brilliant. I've been a huge fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt for a long while and the incredible effects on his face in this film work superbly. He comes across almost as a young De Niro. It's impossible to summarise this film and the trailer doesn't help much. Suffice to say that it's a real gem. There are some profoundly moving moments and I would definitely recommend this as one of my favourite films of 2012.