Can Looper be disliked? As I walked out of the theater I don’t think I heard a single negative word uttered by anyone. And let me tell you, the theater was not full cinephiles. There were a lot of people throwing out words and phrases like badass, insane, fucking awesome, mind-blowing. Everyone I’ve talked to at least liked the film, and most loved it. But why did everyone love it? Why does Looper work so well?
I think a big reason the film appeals to so many people is on the surface it’s insanely entertaining, action packed, funny, and smart. I guess that doesn’t happen very often anymore. So a change of pace is nice. There are some really great action sequences in this film, and the first 20 minutes has one of the most disturbing sequences that doesn’t use a drop of blood I have seen it a long time. But there’s a lot of blood too. People love violence, but I should say Rian Johnson isn’t glorifying the violence in the beginning of the film. He actually makes it really real and visceral. It’s definitely critiquing what the Loopers do.
Another reason Looper appeals to so many people is it respects its audience. It doesn’t get bogged down by all the time travel stuff. Instead, it uses time travel as a jumping off point to explore the ideas and characters in the film. Once it jumps off, it never looks back. The story aggressively moves forward, and Rian Johnson trusts his audience to keep up. He kind of holds our hand until Bruce Willis shows up. He wants us understand the world and the Looper profession, but then he lets go and you’re on your own. The moment Rian does this left me a little dazed, but I quickly realized what was going on and I was truly in awe. This also resulted in the best use of montage I’ve seen in recent memory.
This moment also reveals why so many people love the film. The end of the montage is heartbreaking. Yes, Looper is badass and insanely fun, but more importantly, Looper has a huge heart and is emotionally resonant. Rian Johnson really cares about his characters and everything he does is in service of them. Great action scenes or badass moments become iconic and transcendent because all the work Johnson did creating these characters and the emotional situation they’re stuck in.
The film has some problems. For the first 20 minutes Johnson’s grasp may be a little too tight. I wasn’t a big fan of all the narration (I don’t think it was totally necessary), but I definitely understand why it would be necessary It allowed the story to move at the pace it did (I wish the final narration wasn’t there. I think the brilliant final decision speaks for itself). The representation of class was a little heavy handed. But I give him credit for even addressing class in any way. That almost never happens in cinema, let alone mid-level budget movies.
But the nit picky problems don’t matter because the final 20 minutes are nothing but brilliant. Amazing character moments were followed by even better character moments and unbelievable action/emotionally beats. I didn’t see the climax coming. Once it happened it was so obvious, but until that final decision is made it was never even an option in my mind. It revealed the way I think about the world and I walked out of the film disappointed in my own selfishness and greed. Looper buries deep down, past what we require from a cool movie, and strikes an emotional cord, some kind of human truth and that is why I love it.