Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) Troubled Western 'Jane Got a Gun' Rescued as Relativity Files for Bankruptcy (Updated) 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film 'The Witch' Won't Open Until 2016, But Its Sundance-Winning Director Has a New Film Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Showtime Chief on David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' Revival: "It's His Show" Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Toronto Film Festival Lineup: What Did They Get? Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Discover the Brothers Quay, Identical Twin Animators Who Inspired Christopher Nolan Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Richard Linklater's Untitled New Film Pushed to 2016, Might Direct Jennifer Lawrence Movie Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers Jill Soloway Says "There Is an All Out-Attack" on Female Filmmakers 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) 'Steve Jobs' Joins Fall Festival Contenders as NYFF Centerpiece Gala: What's Coming Up and What's Not (UPDATED) Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Arthouse Audit: Is 'Phoenix' This Year's 'Ida'? 'Mr. Holmes' Stays Strong Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Friday Box Office: Sandler's 'Pixels' Gets Mixed Response, 'Paper Towns,' 'Southpaw' Not Far Behind Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Scott Foundas Explains Why He's Leaving Film Criticism--Again--for Amazon Studios Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Congrats to Monica Bellucci: She's Making History Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Broad Green Dates 'Knight of Cups' and Two More Releases Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema Watch: The Secret Ingredient to David Lynch's Disorienting Cinema First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal First Look: 'No' Director Pablo Larraín Channels 'Neruda' with Gael García Bernal Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Is 'The Revenant' the Most Hellish Shoot of All Time? Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Gabriel García Márquez Documentary Coming Soon (Trailer) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why I Can't Wait to See 'Crimson Peak,' Guillermo del Toro's Sumptuous Period Thriller (VIDEO) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White' (New Trailer, Sneak Preview Q & A) Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991 Gabriel García Márquez and Akira Kurosawa Talk Film, Writing and 'Rhapsody in August' in 1991

TIFF REVIEW: Opening Nighter 'Looper ' Delivers Sci-Fi Thrills-- and Depth

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 6, 2012 at 11:32AM

You can throw out the old canard that you can usually skip the opening night Canadian film in Toronto. That's because the fest has wriggled free of having to book the latest tasteful film by a respected Canadian auteur. And Rian Johnson's "Looper" is a must-see hardboiled thriller for any cinephile--let's hope the good folks in Roy Thomson Hall can handle the bone-crunching violence.
1
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Looper'
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Looper'

You can throw out the old canard that you can usually skip the opening night film in Toronto. That's because the fest has wriggled free of having to book the latest tasteful film by a respected Canadian auteur. And Rian Johnson's "Looper" is a must-see hardboiled thriller for any cinephile--let's hope the good folks in Roy Thomson Hall can handle the bone-crunching violence.

The writer-director concocted this sharp-edged dystopian time-travel movie with a central conceit that had to work on film: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who starred in Johnson's "Brick") is playing the young Bruce Willis. It's far-fetched, but with the help of a lip prosthesis, you buy it. There's a thrilling moment when the two men meet at a diner--the wiser tough guy who knows what's ahead, and the younger, slimmer man who has no respect for that knowledge. He's going to write his own future.

The rules of efficient killing across past and future time zones are laid out efficiently without wasting screen time. Like Joss Whedon, Johnson is a gifted writer with an instinct for amusing us; he tells us what we need to know, sets up his characters, delivers witty and entertaining dialogue, and actually surprises us in the third act with a twisty mind-bending denouement that turns the movie from a straight-ahead sci-fi entertainment into something deeper. The ending is satsifying; I want to see the movie again.

Gordon-Levitt holds his own with Willis, half impersonating him, and you root for both of their characters to survive. Gordon-Levitt isn't a marquee star yet, but he is steadily buliding solid cred with movie audiences. Halfway through the film we meet Emily Blunt as a strong, rifle-toting, loving single mother isolated in the country corn fields--for a reason. Blunt anchors the movie and delivers that extra dimension that elevates a programmer into a classic. Thus "Looper" becomes a three-hander, and the TIFF folks knew what they were doing booking it for opening night. The audience may be gripping their chairs during the movie. But they will walk out happy.

This article is related to: Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Festivals, Festivals, Reviews


E-Mail Updates








Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.