'Looper' Test Screening Reviews: A Quality Time Travel Thriller

looper starring bruce willis and joseph gordon-levitt (early review)

[UPDATE: Click here to read our 'Looper' review!]

Writer/director Rian Johnson may not yet be a household name, but he has a strong fanbase among cinephiles, particularly for his stylish high school Noir flick, Brick.

Johnson's star is set to rise next year with his sci-fi action thriller Looper, which is going to be boosted by the high-profile stars in its cast, namely Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, to name a few. After a recent test screening of the film for some select press, early reviews of Looper are making their way around the web and we've collected a few of them for you to read over.

Looper recently had its release date pushed back to September of 2012, so it's a bit surprising to see it being screened already. The movie takes place in a future where the mob contracts its hits in a very unique way: by using outlawed time travel tech to vanish targets by sending them to past, before time travel was invented, where specialized hitmen known as "Loopers" take out the target. The twist comes when Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who plays one of said loopers) attempts to carry out a hit on a target he quickly realizes is his future self (played by Bruce Willis).

Clearly there is a lot of room there for some thought-provoking sci-fi quandaries and thrilling action; but then again, time travel is a plot device that can quickly go awry if not managed properly. So how well does Johnson implement the concept into his film?

Check out what some websites have to say about Looper - which, it should be noted, is far from being 100% complete in terms of effects and overall polish:

Badass Digest - Johnson tackles time travel with confidence; at first the rules are waved away, but eventually the ways that time travel works begins to become clear to us. The rules have to work, because Looper is tight as a drum, and any hiccup in how things work would send the story careening.

It’s a film dotted with small details that feel thoroughly thought outreminding me of what Duncan Jones did with Moon. The future world is intriguing, but it isn’t the heart of what Johnson’s doing here. Looper is a movie about confronting the person you used to be – in this case quite literally. It’s about the idea that the you of today may not be the same person as the you of yesterday, thanks to years’ worth of accumulated experiences.

What most intrigued me about Looper, though, is the way it examines what is heroic. It takes some of the standard moral and philosophical questions associated with time travel and puts a new spin on them – to say more would be to spoil some of the film’s best reveals, but suffice it to say that this is a movie where your idea of who is the hero, and who is doing the right thing, shifts and changes.

There may yet be changes to Looper, but the movie I saw was great. Bigger than Johnson’s last two films, Looper has one thing in common with them – like Brick andBrothers Bloom it’s a film that plays in a genre, but never at the expense of characters. This is an action film, and Johnson proves that not only does he have excellent action chops, he has interesting ideas on how to shoot his action so that it doesn’t look like every other action scene you’ve ever seen. Looper proves that Johnson is ready to move into the big, expensive movie game, and that he has the kind of instincts that might allow him to make a big, expensive movie that’s actually good.


AICN - This is the clever central conflict of LOOPER: two versions of the same man - separated by thirty years - at odds with himself over his future. It's a rather heady quandary, but it's examined in the mainstream-skewing framework of a crackerjack sci-fi/action flick that recalls the genre-blending daring of the '70s and '80s. And it's not just a time travel movie. Just when LOOPER seems to be settling into one type of film, it veers off in another direction, then settles down again, then goes absolutely bonkers without sacrificing clarity of story or theme. This is masterful filmmaking - a stirring reminder that genre entertainment can be both smart and accessible.

But this is no straightforward tale of redemption; once Johnson's established his world, he hurls nothing but wicked curveballs until the final scene. The plot described above encompasses only the first third of the film; the minute Willis shows up as old Joe, everything is knocked off kilter, resulting in multiple track-downs of very different targets. Ultimately, young Joe is forced to seek sanctuary in a remote farmhouse owned by Sara (Emily Blunt), who's fiercely protective of her precocious son Cid, while waiting for the Gat Men - or perhaps the vengeful older Joe - to turn up.

LOOPER is an intricately structured story enlivened by Johnson's trademark wit and wounded romanticism. It's an invigorating, thrilling, ceaselessly inventive film, a miracle in an era of by-committee studio filmmaking. And while it's still months from being finished, barring any postproduction monkey business, it's already a great movie. I can't wait to discuss it in greater detail.


From these early accounts, it would seem that fans of smart-yet-thrilling sci-fi tales are going to have a lot to chew on when Looper comes out. The only downside is: we have to wait almost a year to dig in.

Looper will be in theaters on September 28, 2012.

Sources:  AICN & Badass Digest

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