'Looper': What the Critics Are Saying
Rian Johnson’s futuristic sci-fi action film may be confusing, but reviewers agree: audiences will want to stay in the loop the whole time.
The sci-fi film from Sony's TriStar and FilmDistrict opened this year’s Toronto International Film Festival and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt.
Set in the year 2044, Gordon-Levitt plays Joseph (Joe) Simmons, a “looper” who kills agents sent to him from the future. Willis, as Joe’s older version, is sent back to the past so the younger Joe can kill him. But the film becomes a chase for time when the older Joe escapes.
Looper received a nd opens in theaters Sept. 28.
Read below for excerpts of the reviews from top critics:
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy calls the film “a clever, entertaining science fiction thriller that neatly blurs the line between suicide and murder. An existential conundrum wrapped in a narrowly conceived yarn about victims sent back in time to be bumped off by assassins called loopers, Rian Johnson's third and most ambitious feature keeps the action popping while sustaining interest in the long arc of a story about a man assigned to kill the 30-years-older version of himself.”
Marshall Fine from The Huffington Post appreciates director Johnson’s vision saying, “Now, with Looper he thinks big -- or, at least, bigger -- going futuristic sci-fi. But he treats the material as a crime-fiction saga, rather than a special-effects extravaganza. The result is smaller and mostly satisfying, a noir character study -- with two actors playing the same character.”
Joe Neumaierof New York Daily News also admires the director’s work: “Yes, Looper stacks the deck, but if you hang with it, it hangs together. Johnson (“Brick”) knows the storied history of this genre, so he makes sure there’s heart as well as a sometimes overly busy head, especially in a subplot involving an unsuspecting bystander (Emily Blunt). As with last year’s “Source Code,” this is the rare action movie that rewards viewers who pay attention."
Although the film’s plot may be confusing for the audience at first, Associated Press’ Christy Lemire says that “Looper makes sense ... I think. I've got a couple logistical questions. But what's smart about it — and what makes it more compelling than colder sci-fi — is the way writer-director Rian Johnson establishes the machinery of the time-travel concept, then steadily pushes it into the background in favor of exploring his characters and the difficult questions they face.”
Jeannette Catsoulis from NPR comments: “Looper, a cocky sci-fi tale with more brass than substance, is rife with these "Say what?" moments. And though writer-director Rian Johnson smartly tries to eclipse the technical with the personal, that strategy only works if you have a lead who earns our sympathy. It takes time — and Joseph Gordon-Levitt turning into Bruce Willis — for that to happen, but it's all the encouragement we need to forgive the film's irrationalities and enjoy its offbeat performances and stylized nihilism.”
Catsoulis later adds, “Set mainly in a grimy urban landscape cribbed from Children of Men and its like, Looper is a self-consciously good-looking, profoundly silly movie that nevertheless comes off as high-minded. That's quite a trick, and it's helped by Gordon-Levitt's transformation from the geeky charmer of his earlier films to morally confused dead-eyed hard case. At times he has an odd, effects-enhanced look that resembles an avatar in a video game, but at no time does he look like he could grow up to become Bruce Willis. And that's a pity — because as we all know, there are much worse fates.”
Commenting on the actors’ performances, Kevin Jagernauth from Indiewire says, “And of course, he gets two great turns out of his leads. Gordon-Levitt has never quite played a character like this, one of such dubious, selfish motivations who generally puts his own self-interest first. A junkie and second-rate gangster, he's not immediately the most likeable character. But that he manages to navigate the moral and emotional complexities of his character, particularly under some impressive prosthetics, is a true treat to watch .... As for Willis, we haven't really seen him in a movie of this quality in a long time (the atypical Moonrise Kingdom aside). Looper serves as a reminder of just how terrific Willis can be with material that goes the extra mile.
Jagernauth concludes: “Brainy and entertaining, there is simply nothing like Looper you've seen at the multiplex in quite some time and it's one you'll want to loop back see again after you leave the theater.”