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Klavan On The Culture

Looper: A Near-Miss of Sci-Fi Greatness

January 9th, 2013 - 5:00 am

To say that Looper just misses being a great film isn’t a criticism exactly. Most movies aren’t even good, and Looper is plenty good: fresh, inventive, exciting, cool. I had a goofy smile of pleasure permanently plastered on my kisser after the first few seconds when a voiceover explains the premise: time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it will be in thirty years; it will be against the law so only gangsters will use it; they’ll use it to send victims back to before time travel where they’ll be killed by assassins called loopers, who will eventually have to kill themselves when their usefulness is over. Neat-o, right?

So looper Joseph Gordon-Levitt has to kill his future self, Bruce Willis, but Willis gets away because he’s, you know, Bruce Willis. And the chase is on.

It’s the freshest sci-fi movie concept in years, and it’s entertaining throughout. So what keeps it from being a classic?

I think the problem is that writer/director Rian Johnson, who did the cute concept movie Brick, doesn’t take the fresh idea to very many fresh places. After the cool first act set-up, the movie seems to take all its ideas from other pictures, specifically Terminator and Shane.  There’s also a flaw in the film’s moral logic which too often leaves you wondering whom you’re supposed to be rooting for, if anyone. That makes you start to think about things and, as with all time travel stories, the moment you think about it, you realize how little sense it all makes.

But again, it’s not really fair to carp at a film for not being a classic. This is good stuff start to finish with an attractive cast, including Emily Blunt, a couple of good twists and a satisfying conclusion. If you missed it in the theaters, it’s well worth catching it now.

It’s rated R for all the usual stuff.

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