Release Date(s)2012 (July 12, 2021)
Studio(s)TriStar Pictures/Film District/Endgame/Ram Bergman Productions (Entertainment One)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
[Editor’s Note: This is a UK import 4K release. The UHD disc is compatible with players worldwide, but the Blu-ray is limited to REGION B.]
In the year 2044, a slick twenty-something named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) gets steadily richer working as a “looper” for a Kansas City crime syndicate. This means he executes the syndicate’s enemies and disposes of their bodies, but not current enemies—targets from the future that the syndicate’s operation in 2074 sends on one-way, dead-end trips back in time. Joe kills by day, parties by night, and generally cares for nothing but himself. But when his friend and fellow looper Seth (Paul Dano) fails to kill a target that he realized was his future self, Joe briefly tries to help, which swiftly draws the wrath of their boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels). It seems that “having your loop closed” is a prospect that every looper must face eventually. So Joe isn’t too surprised when his next target is his own future self (played by Bruce Willis). But future Joe manages to escape before young Joe can kill him. It seems he’s on a mission to take out the person who wants him dead in 2074, who in 2044 is just a boy. But determined to close his own loop to get right with Abe, young Joe tries to predict where his future self will go next, which soon leads him to Sara (Emily Blunt), a single mother who’s struggling to manage a farm and give her young child a better future.
What makes Rian Johnson such an interesting filmmaker is that he brings something slightly unconventional to every project he works on. He takes old school ideas, mixes in some fresh ones, and pushes the result in a different direction that feels both familiar but also fresh at the same time. Part of this down to the fact that his films are seasoned with simple touches, details, and character moments (Joe trying to learn French, for example) that build authenticity. Part of it too is due to his longtime collaboration with cinematographer/image scientist Steve Yedlin (be sure to check out Yedlin’s excellent website here), who brings his own unique look to every project. With Looper, the result is unquestionably high-concept, yet it doesn’t require an abundence of expensive visual effects—it’s set in a future that’s near enough to our own that it feels grounded in reality. And while time travel is a topic that’s been explored on film before, Johnson’s found a way to make it feel clever without relying too heavily on M. Night Shyamalan-style “out of left field” twists. The casting of Gordon-Levitt and Willis as Joe at two different ages is inspired; each brings a different edge to the role, one as a young man who can’t really imagine caring about the future—or anyone—and the other as an old man who’s lived a future worth caring about. Each makes you emphasize with their plight, which strongly motivates their actions even as it sets them in conflict. Add another great sci-fi performace by Blunt (think The Adjustment Bureau, Edge of Tomorrow, A Quiet Place and its sequel)—who derails young Joe’s nihilism and makes him stop, think, and care—and the result is a genuinely worthy piece of neo-noir cinema.
Looper was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision Panaflex Gold II and Millennium XL2 cameras with Panavision anamorphic lenses. It was originally finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its release in Ultra HD, Sony has rescanned the camera negative in native 4K and upsampled the VFX shots to create a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with new grading for high dynamic range (both HDR10 and HDR10+ are included on this disc). This UK edition is by Entertainment One. (A US release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is expected later this year or early next.) It should be noted that Looper has always had a somewhat gritty appearance. The HDR grade here features bleached highlights and many scenes that are slightly desaturated. Yet the palette also has an obvious blue push, all of which combines to produce a very particular “hard-boiled” look. The 4K image offers a notable improvement in fine detail and crisp texturing for non-VFX shots—detail and texture that’s readily apparent in virtually everything on the screen. When it comes to the VFX, Johnson and Yedlin have designed them not to have too much detail. They’re full of atmospherics, with just enough resolution to sell the effect but not so much that every shot looks uncanny valley in the way of The Phantom Menace. So the upsampling here works just fine. Grain is medium, but organic always. The expanded contrast of HDR results in truly black blacks, but more shadow detail in interiors and night shots, while the highlights are perhaps a bit too hot. Colors are stylized but vibrant within those parameters, again with a slight blue push. This isn’t a 4K image that you’d traditionally call reference-grade, but it works for this particular film.
Primary audio is offered on this UHD release in the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was found on the original 2012 Blu-ray release. The soundstage is big, wide, and aggressive, with lovely panning and movement from channel to channel, as well as muscular bass. Dialogue is clean throughout and the surround channels are constantly alive with atmospherics, including city ambiance, nightclub din, and the sounds of nature on Sara’s farm. Gunshots sound appropriately meaty. Ryan’s cousin Nathan Johnson delivers a fine score featuring unique and edgy “found object” rhythms that help propel the action forward. This was a fine surround mix in 2012 and it remains so now. An English LPCM 2.0 stereo mix is also included, as are optional subtitles for the English Hard of Hearing.
Entertainment One’s UHD release is a 2-disc set that includes the film in 4K and also 1080p HD on Blu-ray (coded for Region B only). Both discs offer the following special features:
- Audio Commentary with Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt
- Looper: From the Beginning (HD – 7:51)
- Scoring Looper (HD – 16:16)
- Deleted Scenes (HD – 21 scenes with optional commentary by Johnson and Noah Segan – 33:20 in all)
- Animated Trailer (HD – 1:34)
- The Science of Time Travel (HD – 8:30)
- New Future, Old School (HD – 3:18)
- The Two Joes (HD – 4:45)
These are the same features found on the original Blu-ray release. They’re grounded and interesting, focused on things you’d actually want to know more about as opposed to more straightforward EPK material. The only drawback is that there’s just not enough of them. Still, the commentary is terrific and entertaining. And the animated trailer is lovely. As this is a UK import release, there’s no Digital Copy code included.
Looper is a smart, tense, and engaging science fiction thriller. Though not at the level of the very best entries in its genre, it certainly deserves to be considered alongside such second-tier gems as Ex Machina, Sunshine, Under the Skin, Dredd, and Dark City. And until Sony releases the film properly on 4K disc here in the States, Entertainment One’s import UHD is easy to recommend for fans.
- Bill Hunt