‘Looper’: Lots of action, smart plot


By Sari Greenberg

Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is a truly intelligent movie and one of the best action films of the year. The film takes place mostly in the year 2044, in a dystopian U.S..

Thirty years later, in 2074, time travel is invented and immediately outlawed but used illegally by crime bosses to send targets back in time and assassinate them.

The people who perform these assassinations are called ‘loopers.’ The reason crime bosses need to use loopers to kill their targets is because tracking technology in the future has made it too hard to dispose of a body without getting caught.

If the crime bosses choose to end a looper’s contract they do so by sending the looper’s future self back in time to be killed by his younger self, thus “closing the loop.”

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a looper and when his future self (played by Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to be assassinated, Joe fails to close the loop. For the rest of the film Joe works with and against his future self in a riveting and complex story.

I have chosen to place Looper in the action rather than science fiction genre.  This is due to the recent increase in superhero movies that are being classified as action when they have more sci-fi elements.

Action movies are the highest grossing box office films. As a result, many action flicks lack important cinematic aspects like character development and a strong story, while trying to make up for it with CGI (computer-generated imagery), violence, and excessive explosions.

I love all these things just as much as anyone but they aren’t enough alone to make a great action film. Looper has CGI, it has violence, and a person even explodes at one point!

However, it also has an intricate story that draws the viewer in and meaningful character development. Looper has helped bring back the standard for the action movie as a real movie with a developed plot, not just a box office cash cow with no theatrical soul.

While Looper does have a solid plot, there are some major problems with it. The most important one is that in the future, when the crime bosses go to capture old Joe to send him back in time to be assassinated by young Joe, they kill his wife (I promise that wasn’t really a spoiler).

This important because the murder of his wife motivates old Joe’s actions for the rest of the film, but it also renders the entire story illogical. If the only reason loopers exist is to kill people from the future because it’s too hard to dispose of bodies in thirty years, why did they kill Joe’s wife without thinking twice?

I, personally, have chosen to forgive this essential plot problem, because I think the quality of the film overall makes up for this fatal mistake.  Moreover, it’s inevitable that a film with such a complicated concept will face plot problems.

If you see Looper and love it, I suggest you rent the movie Brick, a film also written and directed by Rian Johnson that stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

It’s different than Looper, as it’s a high school aged film noir, but Johnson pays the same attention to story and character in Brick as he does in Looper.

Look out for Rian Johnson’s work in years to come, he could very well be one of the action genre’s next greats.



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