Looper: Rian Johnson’s Sci-Fi Thriller Marks 10 Years

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in Looper. Courtesy of Sony.

Looper, the sci-fi thriller written and directed by Rian Johnson, marks the tenth anniversary of its theatrical release in 2012.

Rian Johnson certainly knows how to make them–Looper remains one of the most original films of the past decade. By the time that I first saw Looper in 2012, I was already familiar with Johnson’s work on two episodes of Breaking Bad. His third episode, which didn’t air until September 2013 is one of the best episodes in the history of television. When it comes to his feature work, I regret to say that I didn’t see either of his first two films before watching Looper for the first time.

Time travel will be invented at some point in the near future. Once it is, it will be illegal and only something that will happen by way of the black market. In this particular instance, the mob will send somebody some 30 years (2074) into the past where a “looper”–such as Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)–will kill them in the present day (2044) with a Blunderbuss and take care of their body. It’s easy money but things change once The Rainmaker takes over the business in the future. This new mob boss is sending everyone back into the past so as to close their loop. It’s news for Joe when he’s staring his future self in the eye. Can present-day Joe go through with pulling the trigger or will old Joe seek out The Rainmaker and stop everything from happening?

In a perfect world, Joe would never have known he was killing himself until after the fact. When old Joe shows up, he’s not wearing a sack on his head nor his he gagged and tied. To nobody’s surprise, he’s quick on his feet and tells present-day Joe to run. It’s quite the predicament for everyone involved. Never mind the manhunt–what is Joe going to do with the facts on hand? What happens when old Joe finds and kills The Rainmaker? Will he just vanish upon killing the kid? In the meantime, Joe is hiding out at Sara’s (Emily Blunt) farmhouse. He doesn’t know her but her house is among three on a map that could be The Rainmaker. Everyone will figure it out eventually but for now, he’s just looking out for her and her kid.

There’s something about time travel movies that make you want to think beyond the action thriller playing out before you. Every time travel movie is so different and this film is no exception. Johnson keeps things rather basic on the time travel front–everyone goes back in time 30 years to the date. The fact that it is illegal in the future should certainly say something about how people are using it. If the mob sends somebody back in time, what happens if they start running loose? All it takes is one person to get the truth out there. In this case, it’s Old Seth telling Seth (Paul Dano) about what happens and things will not end well for either party.

When it comes to casting for this film, in theory, it would be best to cast actors that look similar. Johnson doesn’t bother with this. Instead, he goes with both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and lets prosthetics do the rest. It’s a testament to Kazuhiro Tsuji’s work because I couldn’t tell upon watching the film. Moreover, this film was shot prior to Willis’s health becoming an issue on set.

Design-wise, this is a film that isn’t too far into the future. There’s enough here that it looks realistic enough to be 2044 when one accounts for whatever technological advances come our way. Mind you, this is a future with a terrible economy and manufacturing jobs that don’t seem to exist. All you need to do is take a look at the vehicles in use!

The beauty of watching this film is that we’re constantly on the edge of our seat as we wonder what’s going to happen next. Whether it is thriller, Star Wars, or just an old-fashioned whodunit, Rian Johnson turns everything he touches into gold.

Looper never focuses too much on sci-fi because the film keeps our attention on the old-school action-thriller taking place on the screen.

CAST: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Summer Qing, and Jeff Daniels

TriStar released Looper in theaters on September 28, 2012. Grade: 4.5/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.