Looper Review: One Joe, Two Joe, Red Kid, Blue Kid

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We start in a field. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) checks his watch while softly reciting French. Suddenly a hooded figure appears in front of him and Joe blows a hole through his chest. Welcome to Looper

In 2044 time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but in thirty years it has. Due to tagging issues, when the mob needs someone killed, they send them back in time where a looper stands waiting to blow a bloody hole in them. The body is disposed and all evidence erased. Joe is a looper who spends his days doing dirty work and nights partying with friends. It becomes repetitive like any other job. The one catch that differs it from a 9-to-5 office job is that eventually Looper’s loops have to be closed. At a certain point, one of the hooded figures a Looper kills will be himself. So when an older Joe (Bruce Willis) appears – sans bag on his head – and escapes, young Joe has a problem.

This is what marketing has led you to believe the entire film is about. Thankfully, this is a rare case of marketing not ruining an entire movie, because there is much more to the film than a man hunting his future self. Instead, we get a movie about the choices the Joes have to make and how important a life is. Director Rian Johnson has done this with his past two movies, Brick and The Brothers Bloom. All three have used a genre-y premise as the shell for movies that are basically character studies. 

Speaking of characters, the cast is fantastic across the board. Nearly every actor gives the best performance of their career. Joseph Gordon-Levitt manages to both embody Bruce Willis while never just doing an impression and give a compelling lead performance. Bruce Willis is equally great playing a grizzled old killer that doesn’t just feel like Bruce Willis doing a role he could play in his sleep. He has to play some of the most emotionally heavy moments he’s had in his career and absolutely nails them. Both this and Moonrise Kingdom prove that he can be a fantastic actor when given a reason to care.

The supporting cast is filled with great work as well. Jeff Daniels and Noah Segan are both fun in two of the more comedic roles as Joe’s boss and co-looper, respectively. Piper Perabo is also good in a brief role as a dancer. The main female lead is Emily Blunt, who surprised me with her talent. After only seeing her in movies like The Devil Wears Prada she proves that she can transform herself and play a very serious role convincingly.

 But the biggest surprise of the film is child actor Pierce Gagnon. Commercials have completely avoided his character, thankfully so, and I won’t go into his role in the film as it’s part of the delightfully unique third act. What I will go into is how fantastic of a performance this is by someone very young. While he first comes off as a conventional “precocious child”, his character ends up playing a very interesting role in the film that could have easily derailed it entirely. Thankfully it works incredibly well and will be a role that’s talked about for a very long time. 

To think that the man who made Brick and The Brothers Bloom has released an action movie with Bruce Willis is mind-boggling, but I’m glad he was given the opportunity. He deserves the massive popularity he is about to get. Many have previously called Rian Johnson a “promising up-and-comer” that we should be keeping our eyes on and the sentiment is being repeated in the release of Looper. That needs to stop now. Rian Johnson isn’t a talent on the rise anymore; he’s a talent. At what point do we stop patting someone on the back for their repeated successes and instead praise them?

Looper left me speechless after I saw it last night. As I exited the theater I asked my friend what he thought of it. He said he didn’t know whether he liked it or not. By the time we had reached the car he was saying he liked it more than Inception. While that sounds odd, I understand his shift in thinking entirely. When Looper is over your brain will be spinning and it will take a while to process what you saw. I didn’t get much sleep last night due to some haunting imagery and the third act in general, but even while processing I can’t deny the genius on display on the page and screen. This is a rare movie that I’m seeing again nearly twelve hours after I first did, and I can’t wait to dig in again. In an age where filmmakers try to awe with mammoth robots and flying superheros, some of the most breathtaking cinematic moments in years come from Looper. If you want to wow audiences, don’t set out to amaze them. Set out to make a great movie and the rest will fall in to place.