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The Case for: Looper

by Jordan Ruimy

One thing you first notice in Rian Johnson’s Looper is how it builds up its sense of dread with each successive, tension-filled scene. Nobody is safe here. The plot only builds up as layer after layer is revealed until the film’s final shot. It’s a hell of a ride and easily one of the best films of the year. Then why no mention of a possible Oscar Nomination for Johnson’s visionary picture? You see, Science Fiction isn’t something the academy has warmed up to in its 83 year history. Sure it rewarded Peter Jackson’s “The Return Of The King” but what else did it reward before or after that? “Looper” is the kind of movie that can sometimes trip on its own ambitions but its originality is contagious, creating a new world we’ve never seen before. Credit must go to writer/director Johnson who after showing capable signs of flair in his first two films (“Brick” and “The Brothers Bloom”) finally hits one out of the park.

The film tells the story of Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hit-man for an organized crime syndicate tasked with assassinating targets sent from the future. They arrive from the future and bang with one shot they are dead. That is his job. Not complicated at all. That is until Joe’s mob boss Abe (slimily played by Jeff Daniels) hints that the Rainmaker, a criminal mastermind from 2074, is closing the loops. That means he’s sending Loopers back from the future to be killed by their younger selves. Just to hide evidence of the bloodshed. Joe’s good buddy and fellow Looper Seth (an incredibly paranoid Paul Dano) is first in line to encounter his old self. He chokes, let’s his future self go and is now being chased by Abe’s gang with dire consequences. Joe is next and accidentally lets old Joe (a never better Bruce Willis) slip away. You see, Old Joe has a plan in mind. Find the rainmaker as a kid, kill him and set his future right.

You got that? I hope you do. It’s a tremendously thrilling story that leads to Young Joe taking shelter at a family farm with a single mother (a tremendous Emily Blunt) and a kid that -you guessed it- might just be the Rainmaker. Joe is waiting for his future self to show up at this farm so he can shoot him, kill him and continue on with his work as Looper.

The imaginative thought that went into the screenplay is a breath of fresh air that puts any other recent Science Fiction film to shame and Joseph Gordon Levitt -as good an actor as any around at the moment- does wonders with his role. Don’t expect a mind numbingly hammering experience such a the one experienced in Christopher Nolan’s ambitiously brilliant but flawed “Inception”, if you do pay attention to Johnson’s linear story it can be followed and make a lot of sense. No review should ruin the film’s many surprises but suffice to say Looper’s many twists are already being analyzed and debated by film fans. A sure sign that you’ve made a movie that is here to stay.

I haven’t heard any Oscar buzz on this film which is a real shame. Many critics will have the film in their top ten lists and maybe -just maybe- with a decent push from the studio it can end up getting the 8th or 9th spot with the other nominees ala “District 9″ from a few years ago. Yes, I know, I might be dreaming a little but the movie is just too damn good to be dismissed as just popcorn fare. Its got the fan base and the critics on its side, now if only the Academy would join in. I’m sure some readers must agree with me?

22 Comments on this Post

  1. rufussondheim

    Yeah, I agree, this film is definitely worthy of some Awards attention. I’d definitely mark it down for Best Original Screenplay. And maybe even Emily Blunt (we’ll see when I see more films)

    I did get a little confused during the middle when Bruce Willis appeared (how many loops were going on, I counted three I think) and told myself I would definitely have to see it again to see if it all did make sense.

    But, damn, the film really picks up when that Emily Blunt’s child gets into the mix. Great stuff at that point.

  2. Hey Sasha, Hooper gets a Case For column, but neither the Hunger Games nor Avengers, which I proposed to write, do? You got some ‘splainin to do.

  3. There absolutely needs to be a case made for The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Such a wonderful, wonderful film.

    As for Looper, I thought it was great as well. Emily Blunt was just superb!

  4. unlikely hood

    Return of the King is not even remotely sci-fi. ROTK is fantasy. And sci-fi films *have* won Oscars consistently, just not BP. Frankly I think it was worthy of celebration that A Clockwork Orange, Avatar, and District 9 were even nominated for BP.

    I get your point, anyway. Would have been a stronger point just to say they haven’t bothered with fantasy as a BP winner – that term encompasses every film with “magic” or fantastical elements from Harvey to Harry Potter to The Howling.

    I don’t believe Looper will be primarily remembered for any of the elements you mention (which, to the uninitiated, may not sound that original) – I think the first thing people will say about it, ten years from now, is that it was pure Midwestern sci-fi, Little Paradox on the Prairie, Andrew Wyeth meets HG Wells. That’s what I loved about it, anyway – well, that and JGL’s awesome Bruce Willis impression.

  5. Kevin Klawitter

    I think the most impressive thing about “Looper” is how expertly Rian Johnson’s screenplay, direction, and cast play on our perceptions of characters and the nature of a “good guy” and a “bad guy”. The first time we see the two Joes together at the diner, we think we know for sure who is the good guy and who is the bad (or at least “worse” guy), but by the end of the movie, the perspective is completely swapped despite the fact that nobody loses our sympathy. That sort of character development and control of tone is as impressive as any of the spectacular special effects and gunfights in “Looper”.

  6. I agree Kevin. The Good guy/Bad guy swapping aspect of the film was brilliantly done. You just never truly know where the film is going in that respect. complete unpredictaility.

  7. Michael Lewis

    Just saw Looper tonight. So glad I just happened to tune in to this website and catch this article on the movie, as the writer campaigns for Looper to win a Best Picture nomination. I would also add nods for Emily Blunt, original screenplay, film editing, sound editing, visual effects, and make up. Although I could see some traces of The Terminator, Carrie, Back To The Future, and other time travel movies, Rian Johnson did a masterful job here, because the story has a greater application outside its immediate focus; it also has something profound to say about dysfunctional families and the need for love and healing. Truly unforgettable. Tonight’s audience, including my wife and I, left the theater breathless and speechless.

  8. I think it could get in the Best Original Screenplay and Cinematography categories. I really loved the trucking shot that came after the kid td’d (lol) one of the guys who came looking for him at the farmhouse. Most of the composition was also really impressive. Wish it the best.

  9. PaulH, holy moly, I thought I was the only one championing The Hunger Games. A truly worthy film that mostly transcends its YA roots. Flawed yes but one that deserves the case just like TDKR (Not saying they’re equals or either one is better or… just that they deserve more awards attention). The Grey and Chronicle are other 2 films that I really believe should some awards buzz. Both for BP as well as their scripts and their leads (Neeson and DeHan who was also pretty great in Lawless).

    Back to Looper, thanks for making this case. A truly great film and one that deserves WAY more attention than it gotten so far. Reminds me of District 9 situation but that one had a bit more awards buzz.
    While this was indeed a great year for award type films like Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and Life of Pi, it was also a superb year for genre films.

    Cloud Atlas, Looper, TDRK, Chronicle, The Hunger Games, the Avengers, Skyfall and more.
    Pretty much all of them deserve a BP nod IMHO but sadly academy snobs don’t care about sci-fi and other genre films. They wouldn’t have had any chance in a lighter year, let alone a crowded one like this.

  10. Mike, here here! Perks was fantastic. So was Looper. They’re both in my top 5 of the year right now. This is before seeing The Hobbit or Django, and thankfully I’ll be seeing both films this week!! ps Zero Dark Thirty was AWESOME.

  11. moviewatcher

    I don’t know about this… I saw it and I though it was VERY much above the average Sci-fi movies these days. But best of the year? I don’t know, I just didn’t love it as much, though I did find the story intriguing and the narrative propulsive and was never bored. I wouldn’t call it a movie to remember. A movie that I would rewatch in the future. A movie that I would show my kid when he got older?

    And if people even start drawing comparisons between Looper and Inception… (don’t…)

  12. Looper doesn’t have much hope, Paul, but it has more than The Avengers and much more than The Hunger Games.

  13. I now compare all futuristic films to “Children of Men” (2006). If anything can match that film, then it is worthy in my opinion. “Looper” came close for me.

  14. @Eric, not a bad film to compare it with ;) probably the best Science Fiction film of my generation.

  15. If District 9 could get a BP nomination Looper certainly could and should…

  16. Still, my #1 movie of 2012, after 37 movies seen, and it’ll be a dream to see this amazing film being nominated as BP and Original Screenplay. Also, are worthy of praise the special effects, sound categories, cinematography and off course, Emily Blunt and the little boy (what a great and creepy character). Overall, this movie has resound with me primarily for the deep issues of destiny or free will, and the second opportunities in life.
    My other top 5 are completed with:
    2. Argo
    3. Monsieur Lazhar
    4. The Secret World of Arriety
    5. The Dark Knight Rises
    Dark Horses: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lawless, The Grey, Moonrise Kingdome and End of Watch. Still waiting to see the “big ones” :D

  17. eurocheese

    Emily Blunt absolutely deserves a push, especially with one Supporting Actress slot seemingly open. Plus, it would be fun to see her reaction shot when her fellow Devil Wears Prada alum wins. She was the acting highlight of Looper, and I’d love to see her at least be part of the conversation.

  18. @ Chris, both are in mine as well at the moment. I’m disappointed I haven’t seen an FYC ad for Wallflower yet.

  19. YES! YES! YES! Please nominate this fantasticcc movie for an academy award .I Recently saw it and gave it a standing ovation ( note that i was watching it on my laptop alone in my room!). Not only is it a genius film in terms of story line, crisp script and direction, excellent acting & make up and slick action scenes, i think its a cult in making. I wouldnt go as far as putting it up with the likes of Matrix but its really really close. Like Realllly close.

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