TIFF Review: Looper

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis star in 'the smartest movie of the year and the best action movie of the year.'

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


If I may speak freely, I f’ing loved Looper. This is the smartest movie of the year and the best action movie of the year. I liked Premium Rush, The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers quite a bit, but man, Looper takes it to the next level. Full disclosure, this was the movie I’ve been waiting for all year, and it exceeded my expectations in every way.

In the year 2040, hit men called “Loopers” wait for the arrival of victims sent from the year 2070 by gangsters in the future. If they do something wrong in the future, they may be sent back to themselves in 2040, so the hitman can close a loop on himself. When Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is tasked to close his loop, Older Joe (Bruce Willis) arrives prepared and escapes, thus answering the question: Why don’t they remember killing their older selves? Joe does.

The genius of writer/director Rian Johnson’s script is how he answers every time travel question and avoids any unnecessary exposition. How did the Loopers set up the system with future killers before time travel is invented? It’s in there. How does the butterfly effect of changing Young Joe’s path affect old Joe’s memories? It’s in there and it resonates emotionally. The brutal way young Loopers can communicate with their older selves is awesome.

There’s fabulous future talk, under the guise of people who live with this technology don’t really want to talk about it. So they address details of memories and consequences and it’s not exposition. Man, the details are smart. A sequence about the 30 years in between Gordon-Levitt and Willis is amazing.

No surprise, Gordon-Levitt nails Bruce Willis. It’s not just the prosthetic nose and chin, he’s got the lips, the expressions and seems to know Willis better than Willis knows himself. They should put Gordon-Levitt in a Die Hard prequel about young John McClane’s untold story of stealing Hans Gruber’s high school girlfriend, thus answering the question that’s completely irrelevant.

This is the best role Bruce Willis has had since John McClane. I love Unbreakable and 12 Monkeys too, so that says a lot. He gets to be sophisticated, badass, witty and emotional. Brilliant supporting performances from Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, Garrett Dillahunt, Paul Dano and a Piper Perabo I didn’t even recognize. But you know, Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, so I hope they can all share my love.

This is an action movie, and Johnson has a vision for cinematography that dramatically reveals every gunshot, every punch and every detail that causes a slip or a twist. His badass style and attitude makes action out of simple interactions. I like big stunts too but this is cool. Johnson allows quiet moments within action, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s way more effective than bombast.

The moral ambiguity of the story is not only refreshing, it creates downright conflicted feelings in a viewer. That is some power right there. You think Older Joe’s plan is simple, just make the future better. But what he’s willing to do is so out there and man, it goes there. The story keeps evolving, just when you think it’s all been explained.

The action is great, the story is great, the dialogue is great. Looper is riveting.