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TIFF: Copernicus falls logically in love with LOOPER!!!


Geeks, LOOPER is the movie we've been waiting for!  A funny, graphic, nudity-filled, drug-soaked, blood-spattered, sci-fi genre mashup, with a clever script, airtight plot, a great cast, and bad-ass action.


Bruce Willis and time travel -- they had me right there.  But almost every time Hollywood touches time travel, they manage to fuck it up -- there are always plot holes so gaping that when you get out of the theater (or sometimes while you're still in it), you say, "Wait a minute!  That made no goddamn sense!"  Don't get me wrong, time travel has built-in paradoxes that are almost inescapable, but it can be done well -- see PRIMER (which was done independently of big-budget Hollywood, so didn't feel the need to bank on the stupidity of its audience).  The trick is setting up a self-consistent universe, with rules that make sense.  Have the time-travel be very limited, and used sparingly.  Have the characters beat the audience to the obvious ideas that would short-circuit the plot, but have a plausible reason why that can't be done.  And finally, answer the "Kill Hitler" problem.  LOOPER does all of these things, but so effortlessly that it never feels bogged down with exposition.


This isn't a spoiler, because it is explained in the first few minutes of the film:  the idea behind LOOPER is that in the future it is difficult to dispose of bodies, so a crime syndicate sends bodies back in time 30 years, where they are immediately met by a "blast from the past" -- an assassin is there to greet them with a futuristic musket called a blunderbuss.  These killers are known as LOOPERS, because they sign up knowing that one day they will be sent back themselves, and their young self will kill their old self, thus "completing the loop."  Why would anyone do this, you ask?  When that happens, the payout is huge, and they are let out of their obligation to the syndicate, and can travel the world, living the high life for 30 years.


But why wouldn't you just use time travel to solve any problem?  For a start it is illegal in the future.  And even more than that, it is dangerous.  Changes in the past have immediate effects on the future. And when you go back in time, your brain gets foggy, and your memories are scrambled.  And we only ever get to see one time travel machine, and it just transports people to one field 30 years prior.


As you can tell from the poster, trailer, etc., it is no secret that Bruce Willis is playing the older version of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character, Joe.  But when Joe fails to complete his loop, all hell breaks loose.  Young Joe is still trying to kill old Joe, since it is the only way to get his life back, and meanwhile gangsters are chasing them both.  As far as plot goes, I'll stop right there, since there are other twists I don't want to give away.  But I will mention that the rest of the cast is stellar:  Emily Blunt as Sara, Jeff Daniels as a crime boss, Paul Dano as a fellow LOOPER, and an amazing youngster, Pierce Gagnon, who plays Cid, Sara's daughter.  But that's not all. As soon as Garret Dillahunt showed up as a gunslinging LOOPER, looking every bit the futuristic cowboy, you know it is fucking *on*.  I nearly wet by geek pants --- who better than a goddamn Terminator and double DEADWOOD alum to project menacing future badassery.


I won't spoil what happens next, but I will say that it didn't turn out quite the way I expected.  Maybe LOOPER's greatest strength is its incredibly tight plot.  There are twists, but they are well-earned, and never feel forced.  You think it will go one direction, but as often as not, it surprises you.  And just when you think you've found a loophole, the characters address it.  The characters don't do things because that's just the way the script was written -- every action feels earned.


One reason I fell for LOOPER so hard is that it takes the best of several genres, science fiction, westerns, and gangster movies, and blends them together into something wholly original.  There are nods to the conventions of the other genres, but without the cliches. Tired science fiction tropes:  flying cars, goofy outfits, and the pristine future imagined by a set designer, are out.  These criminals don't act like the mafia or yakuza -- they are sinister and menacing, yet at times incompetent.  While it is obvious who the bad guys and good guys are, things aren't just black and white.  Our hero isn't some white hat who rides into town on horseback -- he goes to prostitutes (who act like prostitutes), is addicted to drugs, and commits crimes so abominable, they are practically unheard-of in a protagonist.  In short, he's a believable gangster.


This is a profound point.  Left to its own devices, Hollywood executives would normally have filmmakers sanitize their characters to make us like them more.  But here the main character, in both his incarnations, is a murderer and asshole no matter how you slice it.  And too-often Hollywood insists on taking out the nudity, toning down the blood, and even censoring Bruce Willis' mellifluous "motherfuckers" to hit a PG-13.  But LOOPER wasn't written by committee, isn't directed by a hired hand, isn't a sequel aiming to rehash a plot, and hasn't been bowdlerized to hit a rating.  Rian Johnson wrote and directed it.  He's one of us -- a fellow geek.  He comes to Butt-Numb-A-Thon regularly (he even brought Joseph Gordon-Levitt one year).  (Full disclosure: he's friends with some of the AICN staff, but I've never met him.)


Comparisons to INCEPTION, another mind-bending, sci-fi, original actioner starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will no-doubt be made.  I like them both, but I like LOOPER more.  And when an up-and-coming movie geek can make a film in league with one with a massive budget made by a master like Christopher Nolan, then Halle-fucking-lujah.



Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:20 p.m. CST


    by Stephen


  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:22 p.m. CST


    by applescruff

    This movie was fucking fantastic. Glad you didn't spoil the biggest stuff.

  • Been looking forward to this flick for a while.. Can't say I know much of Johnson's work except for "Brick" which I thought was fantastic.. and honestly have been looking forward to, well, ACTUALLY be looking forward to a film that will have Bruce Willis in it. As of late.. that's been a hard call.. Die Hard 4? I wanted to LOVE it.. but couldn't... Surrogates, maybe its incredible but even the ads totally put me off of wanting to see it.. Here's to hoping this one can live up the the trailer.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:28 p.m. CST

    darn.. still no edit?

    by mcgillj

    ** I did want to add though.. I DID look foward, and still enjoyed The Exepndables (both even).. but.. I meant a Bruce Willis starring vehicle.. as much as I liked Bruce in the flicks, I wouldn't call him the star of either.. just a cameo.. just to be fair.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:30 p.m. CST


    by Joe Damiani

    it doesn't come out until october here in PR

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:38 p.m. CST

    can't wait

    by georgecauldron

    so pumped for this

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:49 p.m. CST

    he's right, and for all the reasons listed.

    by IWasInJuniorHighDickhead

    intelligent, creative guy who makes films on his own terms. Literally nothing for anyone to hate on. Guessing people will chime in saying they hated (film) but how can anyone really rag on what he's doing? All I say is give Carruth the same opportunity with his next one. Imagine what that could be like..

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:50 p.m. CST

    But is it graphic nudity filled?

    by adeceasedfan

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:51 p.m. CST

    Nope, you said no gaping holes.

    by adeceasedfan

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:52 p.m. CST

    Oh plot holes!

    by adeceasedfan

    Silly me.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:53 p.m. CST

    *time travel has built-in paradoxes that are almost inescapable*

    by Thunderbolt Ross

    No it doesn't

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:54 p.m. CST

    I do like a tight plot.

    by adeceasedfan

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:55 p.m. CST

    Dammit thunderbolt!

    by adeceasedfan

    You filled my gap. Ok I'll stop now.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 3:59 p.m. CST

    Copernicus. How is the make up?

    by adeceasedfan

    That is the one thing that bothers me in the trailer.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 4:06 p.m. CST

    Getting a Bit Tired of Time Travel

    by Lesbianna_Winterlude

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 4:17 p.m. CST


    by Bouncy X

    isn't that the name of that zombie body parts gun from the undead nightmare dlc for red dead redemption? interesting...... :P but yeah that makeup looks weird and creepy but i imagine you'd get use to it fast enough since he's the star and probably occupies 90% of the screentime.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 4:28 p.m. CST

    The Chinese release

    by wormcheck

    supposedly is longer with the inclusion of scenes cut from the US release... what gives??

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 5:52 p.m. CST

    Better than Inception? Wow...

    by TheUltimateMathTeacher

    Assuming he liked Inception, that's quite a statement. Or maybe he didn't like Inception that much. How about it, Copernicus?

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 6:02 p.m. CST

    So it's not Pooper?

    by Gary Makin


  • Sept. 8, 2012, 6:59 p.m. CST

    Word is that it falls apart in the thrid act...

    by Frat Boy

    Or whenever they reach Emily Blunt's farm. The entire tone of the movie shifts, I guess. I'm still definitely going to see it.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 7 p.m. CST


    by Frat Boy

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 7:12 p.m. CST

    Copernicus - Paradoxes, loopholes???

    by kdoc13

    I actually don't know a lot about this movie, and I wouldn't mind a spoiler or two if can address this question. Time Travel stories usually have a paradox issue that either makes the entire scenario unable to actually occur by cancelling out the events causing future actions to occur, or what I call the TimeCop-out, where the person causing them to happen is "washed over" by the changes, keeping their knowledge of the events that didn't happen due to the change, rather than a reversing paradox that wipes away the reason to prevent the past action. The first tends to happen in movies going forward in time, the second in movies going backwards. So, if the Bruce Willis Character is the older version of the Joseph Gordon Levitt character, simply by going back in time, JGL already knows what he needs to know to avoid getting into this predicament. (No spoiler, this is in the trailer for the movie.) So isn't this alreaady a faulty premise? If you tell me they can overcome this in the story, I might give it a shot, but it already seems like it would be implausable from a paradox extent. This is why I normally hate movies with time travel.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 7:47 p.m. CST

    Yeah Copernicus! What he said. The dude above.

    by Madcapper

    No, seriously. Good question kdoc13. But I'd like to find out myself. Wouldn't you? I like it when all the pieces comes together too, but come on man. Art is a fallacy.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 8:52 p.m. CST


    by slone13

    JGL already knows what he needs to know to avoid getting into this predicament.

  • Yeah, this makes me scratch my head too. Also, it seems odd and a huge risk for the loopers to know they'll eventually be thrown back in time by their employers so their younger selves can kill their older selves. Wouldn't it make more sense that the loopers don't know who they are killing from the future? That way this time-mafia can send back anyone else or the older version of the looper without the looper knowing that they are killing themselves? Or, at least that is what I thought this film's was going to be from the initial trailers. Old Willis upsets the status quo by showing himself to JGL, who then either tries to kill old Willis because he doesn't recognize who it is, or hesitates because he recognizes his older self. Either way, if all the loopers know they'll eventually have to kill themselves, wouldn't that pose the problem of maybe a large number of them getting cold feet about that little bit of dirty work? I mean, keeping the whole looper thing a secret seems like it would make a helluva a lot more sense (and make the villains even more sinister). Or why not have a different looper kill the older version of another looper? That way you have way less chance of one feeling sympathetic towards their older selves? Or perhaps these loopers are such a bunch of self-loathing nihilistic mofos that they don't have a problem with this type of deal? Oh well, I'll see how it all works out in the film. I love a good time travel yarn, even if there are some paradoxes involved.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 9:13 p.m. CST

    Rian Johnson


    He gets a lifetime pass from me just for directing the episode Fly from Breaking Bad Season 3. The guy is a great talent.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 10:10 p.m. CST

    Review had me at 'nudity filled'

    by MattS

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 10:17 p.m. CST

    kdoc13, madcapper and lv_426

    by slone13

    *...simply by going back in time, JGL already knows what he needs to know to avoid getting into this predicament.* Do you three actually think that the film's creator's (including Primer's time travel guru Shane Carruth) didn't consider this "faulty premise"? Or that they simply chose to ignore it? Give these guys a little credit. Copernicus uses the term "airtight plot" in the second sentence of his review. Part of the fun of this movie is seeing exactly how JGL gets himself into this predicament.

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 10:25 p.m. CST

    frat boy

    by slone13

    Exactly whose word are you speaking of?

  • Sept. 8, 2012, 10:41 p.m. CST

    I'm suspecting Loopers don't normally off themselves

    by VAwitch

    While they know one day they'll be sent back in time to be killed, they also don't off themselves. But then again, maybe that is the norm, and older-Looper breaks the rules by showing his face to younger-self.

  • Ah, now I get the connection. It's Breaking Bad with time travel. Which sounds pretty fucking awesome.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 1:17 a.m. CST

    inexplicable_nuclear_balls -- Breaking Bad with time travel

    by lv_426

    Doe that mean....? --- BB SPOILER --- Mike could still be alive? Time travel could make it so!

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 1:22 a.m. CST

    Time travel movies are always filled with plot paradoxes....

    by pr0g2west

    There is a pretty well known theory that if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, then you would have never been born in the first place, hence you would have never went back in time and killed him. I'm assuming this movie, like all other time travel movies, is based on that theoretical paradox. But that's what automatically makes this film implausible, because in reality, you could go back and kill your grandfather, and you will still exist in the future. This is because every unit of time is a separate parallel universe. Your plane of existence is bifurcated through time and space. If we were somehow able to find the technology to travel backwards in time...we would also have to find a way to travel through the space we have moved through. We are orbiting around the sun, our solar system is moving along with the rotation of the milky way, and our galaxy is flying away from the center of our universe at an astronomical rate. Time travel will have to take this into account. I don't see this kind of technology being created for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I could be wrong though. As far as Looper goes, i'm not looking for realism, just want to see a good sci-fi film...we haven't had one in a while.

  • Or, since the Earth is hurtling through space why not just travel them foward to the exact same spot ten minutes from now and sit back and watch them reenter the atmosphere as a nice little fireball.

  • It's already hard enough to get these kinds of films made. If people stop going to see them, they'll stop making them ... completely. Meanwhile, I think LOOPER speaks to the fact that movies just can't be created - written or produced - by committee. You have to have a singular creative voice in charge. Plus, doesn't it get dang expensive paying all those executives' salaries?? This, I think, is why shows like Breaking Bad are trouncing most Hollywood movies coming out of the "system". Shows like BB feel like they haven't been cobbled together by ten people who don't particularly or like, or even go to, the movies. Go LOOPER! We're rooting for you!

  • The premise sounds goddamn ridiculous. But I like Rian Johnson so I'll give it a try.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 9:50 a.m. CST

    boogel is right

    by Laserhead

    In time-travel you have the spatial problem to deal with; that the Earth MOVES, so if you don't do it at the exact same time of year, you end up floating in deep space. I have no idea if the movie deals with that or not, but the entire premise sounds extraordinarily retarded and overly contrived.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 9:59 a.m. CST

    Something still smells funny...

    by SuckholePunch

    If "Looper" is a great flick, why the hell is it being dumped in September? Still going to see it though.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 10:57 a.m. CST

    INCEPTION was Shit!

    by magazoid

    Primer was a mind fuck. I liked it. Looper looks great.

  • So a H G Wells style time machine is just a fancy suicide inducer. A TARDIS -like device would be the only option.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 11:44 a.m. CST

    About time and space travel

    by onezeroone

    I've wondered about that in such movies since I was a kid and saw BTTF. I used to think am too stupid to figure out something that is simple. It would work where time-travel works like a telephone, like teleporter in THE FLY. It goes back to a specific spot where a certain "receiver" is present. But BTTF style time travel... you could very well end up in space. After all, it is all relative but earth is not the point of reference [irrespective of what religious texts say].

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 3:47 p.m. CST

    I love that geeks on sites like this think they can solve time travel

    by Chewbacca_Khan

    when the best scientific minds in the world can do nothing more than guess how it would work, if it would work, and what the consequences would be. Just because it makes sense in your imagination, doesn't mean it works in reality, kids. Like your plans for how to seduce a famous starlet.

  • and Argo and Taken 2 are the only good ones in October. Slim pickins@the cinema for a while.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 5:17 p.m. CST

    As far as I'm concerned there is no such thing as time.

    by boogel

    If you can't quantify it then it doesn't exist. Now I'm heading back to my sofa and watching something silly. Where's my bag of chips damnit!

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 5:26 p.m. CST

    no no no

    by Thunderbolt Ross

    no paradoxes necessary. If you went back in time to kill your grandfather (prior to him impregnating your grandmother), you'd fail. In fact ol' gramps might have a story in the present about how some maniac that looked just like you once tried to take him out. Anyway you can have plenty of good time travel stories without paradoxes, you just need to avoid the idea that anything could be changed. Which is a silly idea anyway, really. I liked this Hulk story where Bruce Banner saw a cave painting of the Hulk and was like WTF. Then of course he traveled back in time and the rest of the story showed how and why that painting was there.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 5:43 p.m. CST

    @slone 13 - first off

    by Frat Boy

    There was one more review (I can't remember who) that said the same thing more or less, that the tone shifts midway/towards the end and it doesn't match the excellent first half of the film.

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 6:18 p.m. CST

    Bruce Willis and time travel...

    by NiteManhattan

    '12 Monkeys' anyone?

  • Sept. 9, 2012, 8:30 p.m. CST

    Who would want to be stuck 30 yrs in the past?

    by bob

    Who would want to be stuck thirty yrs in the past? How can the looper not change the future by living in the past? How can the future mob not already know about problems in the past since they already happened in the past? Why doesn't anyone in the far future stop the future mob? Never mind I guess that's that Hitler kind of thing.

  • Sept. 10, 2012, 1:08 a.m. CST

    I find that in order to enjoy time travel movies

    by Ryan B

    I need to turn off the part of my brain that wants to figure it out and enjoy the movie for what it is. That's like not enjoying Cube because the math was off.

  • Sept. 10, 2012, 1:48 a.m. CST


    by Jarrete Barnett

    Drive was "dumped" in September, and depending on your taste, was arguably one of the best movies of 2011.

  • Sept. 10, 2012, 7:42 a.m. CST

    @Robo - that was the first thought I had. Imagine that jobber interview...

    by impossibledreamers

    'They don't advertise for killers in a newspaper' - Rick Deckard. And the reason that only extremely and I might add unbelieveably limited Time Travel works for Hollywood is because their concepts demand that structure. Nice original name for the weapon too... oy.

  • Sept. 10, 2012, 10:08 a.m. CST

    re: "blunderbuss? isn't that the name of that zombie body parts gun...

    by buggerbugger

    ...from the undead nightmare dlc for red dead redemption?" The blunderbuss is just a type of musket/shotgun that's been around for centuries. 'Red Dead Redemption' didn't invent the term, if that's what you're thinking?

  • Just kidding. Looking forward to this. Loved him in EX3. Like one person said, we haven't had "good" sci-fi in awhile. Inception bored me sorry

  • Sept. 10, 2012, 1:43 p.m. CST

    *Die Hard 4 I meant

    by SlyWalker


  • Sept. 10, 2012, 2:22 p.m. CST

    I'd love to be stuck in 1982!

    by Dan

    Hell yes, best year of movies----ever!

  • Oct. 19, 2012, 6:50 a.m. CST

    that's a boy

    by quentintarantado

    If I'm not mistaken. You mentioned Cid is a daughter?