Let's start here: What's a looper?

Glad you asked.

In 2042, time travel hasn't been invented yet. But in 2072, it has, and it's also been outlawed. So it's used by the mob to send the people they want to dispose of backward to 2042, where guys called loopers get paid a lot of money to off them in cornfields with huge guns called blunderbusses.

Joseph Gordon Levitt as Joe

Joseph Gordon Levitt as Joe

Joseph Gordon Levitt as Joe

Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is one such looper. The city where he lives in 2042 has seen better days: for the most part, life here is the proverbial nasty, brutish, and short kind, even for the 10 percent of the population who have developed the strange ability to make quarters float with their minds. Their motorcycles are more like hovercraft and their technology is advanced, but there are plenty of people who live in housing projects covered with graffiti and scavenge for a living. The high life for someone like Joe, whose stash of silver from his job is impressive and growing, is mostly found in fast cars, late nights partying at clubs, and taking drugs through eyedrops—all with fellow loopers, like the hapless Seth (Paul Dano). Seth and Joe work for Abe (Jeff Daniels), who was sent from the future to run the looper operation.

Life is an endless cycle of partying, paid sex with women, drugs, and jobs with the blunderbuss. But then one day, loopers start discovering their victims are, well, themselves—thirty years in the future. This has happened before—they call it "closing the loop"—but now it's happening more and more frequently. Rumor has it some shadowy figure in the future called "The Rainmaker" is closing all the loops.

Bruce Willis as Old Joe

Bruce Willis as Old Joe

Bruce Willis as Old Joe

And then, one day, Joe comes face to face with his own loop (Willis). Who knocks him out cold. And then escapes.


Sci-fi films have a persistent problem: they start with a great, mind-bending concept, but when it comes to execution, things like character development, plot, and follow-through often fall by the wayside. The result is a fun, even fascinating, but generally half-baked film that needed a few more revisions before making it to the public (see also Push, Prometheus, Source Code, etc.).

Looper, thankfully, is not that film. Director Rian Johnson's first film, Brick, was high-concept crime noir set on a contemporary high school campus in southern California; his second was the postmodern con-man film The Brothers Bloom, which played with the time-honored caper genre. It's clear that Johnson loves the movies and enjoys messing with established genres a bit—not to draw attention to himself, but to subvert the audience's expectations and make them see the story in a new way.

Article continues below
Emily Blunt as Sara

Emily Blunt as Sara

Emily Blunt as Sara

When someone decided that Johnson could handle a big-boy movie budget, it would have been easy for him to lean on special effects, futuristic eye candy, and cool technology to sell tickets to Looper. But he did nothing of the sort (in fact, in making Gordon-Levitt look like a young Willis, the production eschewed CGI for good old makeup and prosthetics—and two and a half hours a day in the makeup chair). Instead, Looper is a carefully plotted story, based on a mind-contorting concept, peopled by great characters who are played by talented actors, especially Gordon-Levitt, who is definitely the hottest commodity in Hollywood right now—this is the third of his four films releasing this year. And when neat futuristic elements do show up, they're in service of the plot. (As an aside: this is one film whose trailer, mercifully, doesn't give away the good stuff.)

Furthermore, Looper plumbs the murky waters of human nature, asking us to decide whether evil people are born evil, or whether they are raised that way. Does a man's choices in adulthood stem from his upbringing or from his nature? This question is a difficult one for Christians to grapple with, given that our theological framework both reminds us that we are fallen, and gives us hope of redemption, of God's grace enabling us to make decisions that can alter our future—-and the future of those we love—-for the better. And yet: man is born with darkness in his heart. Where is the line between nature and nurture? The film doesn't try to answer the question, but it at least leaves us wondering: how do the choices we make today affect our futures? What kind of a person am I becoming, every time I make a decision? From start to finish, Looper is not only a gripping story—it's an absorbing, provocative exploration of fate, chance, and human agency.

Talk About It

Discussion starters

  1. Joe is asked to betray a friend in order to save himself. Have you ever been asked to do something like that? What did you do?
  2. One of the biggest questions in Looper is how our choices affect our future. What's a choice you've made that set your life on a certain course? When you look back, how do you feel about that decision? How can we make wise decisions? See Proverbs 16:1.
Article continues below
  1. Sara believes that if she can raise her son well, he won't become "lost" like many of the men she used to know. Do you think this is what will happen? How well does Looper's conclusion about human nature sit with your own ideas?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Looper is rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content. There's a lot of violence, and while they don't overdo the gore, there's still quite a bit of it—some of it wince-inducing (we see a man explode on screen, among other things), some of it implied (from shootings to dismemberment to some pretty hard-hitting fistfights), some of it directed at children. There are two scenes of female topless nudity. Unmarried characters have (off-screen) sex. Characters drink and party in a club with exotic dancers, some of whom are unclothed. Drug use is limited to something that looks like eyedrops. Profanities are sprinkled throughout, including f-bombs.

Our Rating
4 Stars - Excellent
Average Rating
(21 user ratings)ADD YOURSHelp
Mpaa Rating
R (for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content)
Directed By
Rian Johnson
Run Time
1 hour 59 minutes
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
Theatre Release
September 28, 2012 by 20th Century Fox
Browse All Movie Reviews By: