Time travel actioner ‘Looper’ worth your time

By Steve Smith
Posted 9/26/12

History repeats itself – you don’t have to be a time traveler to understand that.

    So when a new time-travel movie opens, it’s acceptable to be dubious of …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?

Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.


Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.

Our print publications are advertiser supported. For those wishing to access our content online, we have implemented a small charge so we may continue to provide our valued readers and community with unique, high quality local content. Thank you for supporting your local newspaper.

Time travel actioner ‘Looper’ worth your time


History repeats itself – you don’t have to be a time traveler to understand that.
    So when a new time-travel movie opens, it’s acceptable to be dubious of whether it will cover any sort of new ground or find inventive ways to keep the conceit fresh.
    On pedigree alone, director Rian Johnson’s “Looper” pulls off the feat with a solid cast and intriguing premise. In execution, it lives up to its billing with stunning visuals and performances despite some nagging issues with the storyline.
    The film opens with wind rustling through a field somewhere outside Kansas City. It’s 2044 and Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is on the job as a “looper,” an assassin for the mob — only he kills people sent back from the future.
    The Loopers are their own class, not quite wiseguys but not to be trifled with. They’re all 20- or 30-somethings with fine clothes and refined tastes for women, the drink and drugs thanks to the gold they haul in with each killing. They know they need to live it up while they can, as their contracts dictate they’ll be sent back in time 30 years after they’re done killing to “close the loop.”
    Joe gets his first look at the system’s flaws when Seth (Paul Dano) lets his future self run free when he’s sent back. It’s impossible to not be impressed at the set piece in which the mobsters hunt down and torture Seth to rein in his runaway counterpart from the future. While there may be some space-time continuum issues, it’s great entertainment.
    And while Gordon-Levitt is a talented actor working with interesting material, the time spent showing Joe’s angst and uncertainty about closing his own loop is inadequate. It’s only after we’ve met Old Joe (Bruce Willis) that we get a richer sense of what liberty is at stake when the old assassin goes on the run — and how lives will be forever changed in the process.
    The story gets somewhat muddled (although still plausible) when we find out that the future versions get their memories refreshed once events from their past have been altered. At first it would seem to undercut the tension if Old Joe knows how his younger self acted, but a lengthy bit of dialogue between the younger and older Joes clears it up easily enough.
    “My memories aren’t memories,” Future Joe explains. “Possible eventualities.”
    One of the most-effective parts of any time-travel film is the concept of altering the course of human events with one change in the past, as insignificant it may seem. “Looper” introduces this timeline aspect but doesn’t mine it for all it’s worth. Instead, the story shifts between decent action sequences in chase mode and an extended sojourn at a farm run by Sara (Emily Blunt), whose young child holds the key to Joe’s future.
    Throughout, there’s little explanation of the finer points of time travel; “Looper” respects the audience to figure it out for themselves. But other elements of the story are painfully obvious. Far too much time is spent setting up the penultimate reveal in the third act, to the point that it weighs down the momentum of the story when the action-packed proceedings would dictate a faster pace.
    Rian Johnson’s cinematographer Steve Yedlin (who also worked on Johnson’s “The Brothers Bloom” and “Brick”) continues to find fresh and arresting visuals, even if there’s an overabundance of lens flares that serve little to no visual or storytelling purpose.
    It’s difficult to bring anything new to the world of time-travel movies. “Looper” excels in many areas despite its imperfections.

Three stars out of four.


Our Papers

Ad blocker detected

We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.