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See It or Skip It: Looper
Joe, who lives in the year 2044, is a hired assassin for mobsters who live in 2077. He says early on in the film that “Loopers are not the most forward thinking people,” and after watching the movie I have to agree with him.
Time travel’s been invented and outlawed. Only criminals use it, and Loopers live richly in 2044 on the deaths of those the mobs need to disappear from 2077. The catch is that when the mobsters want to fire you, they send the old Looper back to the young Looper, who eliminates the target without knowing that they’re killing themselves. But, the young Loopers get a gold bar payday for “closing their loop” and can live it up until the fateful moment in the future when the mob sends them back in time, to be killed by a younger version of themselves, which makes me wonder if Loops are ever really closed, because there will always be a young Looper to kill the old one . . . confused yet?
Looper’s time traveling gets so messy that characters refuse to talk about “time travel shit” rather than attempt to explain it. I’m actually ok with that. After all, the Looper doesn’t know how time travel works, just that it exists, and if they’re willing to kill they can make money off of it. It’s a comment on the Looper’s society that the young assassins are willing to sell out their future selves in order to live richly today, but it’s also a comment on our own. There are plenty of people selling out their older selves so that they can have what they want now.
Loopers are so self-involved that even when their future selves manage to escape having the loop closed, they hunt after their older selves in order to eliminate them. You would think, that maybe in the thirty years or so the Looper has from 2044 to 2077, that they might come up with a plan to escape their fate, but maybe that’s giving them too much credit. Most of them are little better than auto-guns, blasting their targets at the same time every day without fail, then marching off to the payroll center to collect their money from Abe, a mobster sent back in time to keep the Loopers in control.
There are no real heroes in this movie, only characters who are bad and those who are worse in comparison. Sometimes they may do heroic things, but for mostly selfish reasons, making the actions less heroic.
Young Joe and Old Joe, though they are the same person from different times, might as well be two separate people. Joseph Gordon levitt does a great job of picking up enough of Bruce Willis’ mannerisms and speech patterns to come across as a younger version of him. The problem lies in what each of them wants from the situation. Young Joe wants to kill old Joe and live it up, despite the fact that in thirty years he’ll be in Old Joe’s shoes. Old Joe wants to maintain his version of the timeline, and also wants to kill the nefarious future underworld villain known as ‘The Rainmaker,’ who’s taken over the mob of 2077 and is closing all the loops. Old Joe has a beautiful wife and is happily out of the killing business. He tells young Joe that “She’ll save you,” but then goes on a hunt to find the Rainmaker, who’s still a child in 2044. To some people this smacks of Terminator territory, but it didn’t really strike me as a copycat move on the part of Looper. It seemed more like a ridiculous plan that would undo all the “saving” old Joe’s wife did. How could he send young Joe to her, knowing that he would have the blood of at least three children on his hands? Young Joe acts like Old Joe is a pain in his ass and even goes so far as to attempt to ruin Old Joe’s timeline just because he feels like Old Joe should just lay down and die so young Joe can get on with the partying and drug-using. It’s a pretty interesting dynamic, because you would think the two would join forces and fight the mob in 2044 together, and by not doing that, the film becomes more interesting. It becomes a showdown between a young man trying to preserve his life as he knows it, and an old man trying to preserve and make better the future he knows his younger self will have.
Looper ends up being more of a sci-fi drama than the sci-fi action film the trailers want you to think of it as, but the material lends itself well to that. Despite avoiding digging too deeply into the time travel mechanism, Looper manages to illustrate a compelling time travel scenario using deeply flawed characters.