TIFF 2012: Rian Johnson's 'Looper' is Sci-Fi Time Travel Excellence

September 6, 2012

Rian Johnson's Looper

"You know the rule: never let your target escape." Holy crap this movie is awesome. That's how I'm going to start this, because it's really the first thing that came to mind as the credits started rolling. It also came to mind multiple times while watching it, during some of the badass action moments, and during some of the more brilliant, but not overly complex, time travel elements. Filmmaker Rian Johnson's third feature film (after Brick and The Brothers Bloom) is Looper, an excellent time travel sci-fi action adventure starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a mobster in the past who meets himself from the future. And oh, is it awesome.

I must admit that Rian Johnson is already one of my favorite filmmakers, thanks to his first two movies. With Looper, he continues to mature as a director, and continues to show just how original, exciting, and talented he is as a storyteller. From the concept of a world with time travel to the twist of the plot involving him encountering himself, to where it ends up (and I won't dare spoil it, because this is one of those movies you must experience without being ruined in advance). The less you know going in, the better, because it just gets better as the story goes on. Thankfully our video blog recap on Looper is completely spoiler-free.

After first seeing the movie (back in Los Angeles originally, again at the Toronto Film Fest, I've seen it twice now!) we recorded a video blog featuring Peter Sciretta & Germain Lussier of SlashFilm and myself:

Rian Johnson's Looper succeeds the most in its script, which Johnson painstakingly took years writing and researching. It shows, as nearly every line of dialogue, every moment, is cleverly crafted within a freshly original and exciting futuristic world. And that's not even getting into the time travel elements. He plays with time travel in ways we have never seen before, and in ways we have seen before, but it's still used to enhance rather than weigh down the story. And there are moments where even I audibly gasped "awesome!" when he pulls a time travel trick that only someone as bold as Johnson could actually execute without turning out cheesy. I know I'll be revisiting certain scenes time and time again just to see how it all works.

Of course, the other highlights of Looper are its cast - Joseph Gordon-Levitt as young Joe, who is perfect, and Bruce Willis as old Joe. This might just be my favorite performance from Bruce Willis out of the last 10 movies he's been in. Jeff Daniels is also one of the best parts, giving a uniquely dark, but still likeable performance as the boss - pay close attention to his lines. Finally, Emily Blunt really takes this to another level, giving the truly underrated, nuanced performance of the film. I have an even greater appreciation for her than I did before. It is worth seeing for all of them. But also because it's pure time travel awesomeness.

Find more posts: Feat, Review, Sci-Fi, TIFF 12



HELL YEAH!!! Thank you Alex. This was one we ALL knew could not fail.

DAVIDPD on Sep 6, 2012


There should have only been two words in this review, "Bruce Willis"

JerseyBoy on Sep 6, 2012


Hey Alex, how was Paul Dano? Does he have much screentime in the film? I feel like he's an underused actor (he was amazing in TWBB).

Chems1919 on Sep 6, 2012


He IS a great actor, and has done a lot of supporting roles recently. He's fantastic in this, Rian knows how to work his actors perfectly. He's in the first half, but does a good job.

Alex Billington on Sep 6, 2012


Awesome, thanks for the reply. This is good to hear; I'm absolutely pumped for this film.

Chems1919 on Sep 6, 2012


Dude, you just caused me to infer that he dies in the first half. Careful when you talk about this film please because it's my most anticipated of the year.

Matt Peloquin on Sep 7, 2012


I think the movie looks awesome, but I'm having trouble with the logic of it. If his older self goes back in time to get killed by his younger self, wouldn't his older self know exactly what will happen becuase he already experienced it? Idk its kind of hard to explain, but maybe someone undertsnads where I'm coming from.

juancarlos on Sep 6, 2012


It depends on what kind of movie time travel logic is Looper based on. I'm guessing they are going for different timelines approach,so older self did not experience assassination attempt in his past,the "there is nothing set in stone" or "there is no fate" variation.I'm just guessing ,haven't seen the movie. Also,do you remember everything from your life constantly?Sometimes things get burried deep down.Though having yourself trying to kill yourself is kind a hard to forget.

opinion on Sep 6, 2012


as with all time travel logic there is always the first time line to the future... then he travels back the first time and there is that timeline to the future.... which affects what happens when he travels back again in the future. This is the premise of the movie a time loop. But its brilliant how its played out and if you like time travel plots... you will love this fresh take on it. For me the scenes when the young killer talks to his older self were just amazing.

Seb on Sep 7, 2012


Love the Flight of the Conchords shirt!!!!

cinemabandit on Sep 6, 2012


Sounds good. I'll save my free movie ticket for this maybe.

max on Sep 6, 2012


This was one we ALL knew could not fail. Thanks!

beckham on Sep 6, 2012


Im sure this is an amazing movie, its just good to hear someone else enjoyed Brick as much as I did, easily one of my favorite films

Guy12345 on Sep 7, 2012


I was at the gala opening last night and Alex is bang on as usual. This movie is awesome. No spoilers from me in my comments but if you want to enjoy this movie makes sure no one tells you a single thing about it before going to see it. I was riveted with the character build up and story setup regarding time travel. And there is one scene that deals with a time loop that is so brilliantly pulled off it....... I was freaking inside out how well it was done. I am blown away how Rian Johnson made it play out... amazing and horrifying at the same time.... but not in the gory kind of way most directors would have done it. The acting was top notch. Joseph Gordon-Levitt.. holy crap his best performance I think in any movie he has done. I saw the Premium Rush movie a week ago were he was kinda like every other character he has played but in Looper.. he kills it - this is not Joseph Gordon-Levitt he is a killer. Complete bad ass. totally impressed. Bruce... what can I say.. Im a fan and he is exactly what you would expect in this movie. Everyone else pulled their weight and If Rain is he kind off director who directs his actor... he made Emily Blunt a real actress. The only person who seemed out of place was Jeff Daniels.... He still cant shake Dumb and Dumber ... to bad. BUT the real person who stole the show was the little kid. CRAP there was one scene that pulled every bit of emotion out of me and it was the kid who pulled it off. Where did this kid come from? When you see it you will know what I mean. The kids stole every scene he was in. This is a great movie one you need to see a few times.... ENJOY!!

Seb on Sep 7, 2012


Thanks for an excellent (and spoiler-free) review; I am definitely looking forward to this. Bruce Willis stated in Esquire that this is the best movie he's been attached to, and your review makes it a must-see. Love time-travel sh** too, so curious to see what happens here. 🙂

Sarah on Sep 14, 2012


Indeed an excellent movie, with a twist upon twist ending. I guarantee you won't see it coming. Some have complained about JGL's make up, making him more like Bruce Willis, I could go either way on that. I think he already looks enough like Bruce to pass, yet the make up made it even more so, and didn't bother me at all. Incredible plot, excellent acting, first rate script, brilliant execution. I can't think of another movie to compare to this one. I think JGL has chosen his course through the mine (mind) field of Hollywood wisely. When he quit 3rd Rock, he was a teen idol and made a couple of teen idol movies, but you can be young and cute forever, and I think he saw this path as a dead end. So, he took a break, then he came back with stunning gripping movies like "Brick", "Mysterious Skin", "Manic", "Sweet Jane", "The Look Out", etc.... He was still in 3rd Rock when he made "Sweet Jane", and the minute I saw that movie, my attitude changed. This was a serious actor with tremendous potential. Also, "The Look Out" was a stunning movie completely over looked by Hollywood and consumer audiences. One of my top all time films. Manic, which is available from NetFlix is another stunning movie. For me LOOPER is another JGL classic, up there with the best of them.

SteveMN on Oct 2, 2012

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