Time Travel Week 2 Day 3: Rian Johnson’s Looper

Today I watched Rian Johnson’s Looper (2012)

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As the film so succinctly explains, time travel will be invented in a near future but is immediately made illegal.  So of course it is adopted by the criminal element and they use it to kill people by sending them back in time to be killed by specially hired hitmen named loopers because bodies are too easy to track in the future.  They are called loopers because at some point they will be given a huge payoff when the target sent back is themselves from the future, thus closing their loop and ensuring that they don’t spill the beans on their future criminal employers.  Joe is one of these loopers, living a typical looper high life of fast cars, fast women, and fast drugs, until one of his closest looper friends fails to close his loop.  The would-be hit tells this friend that in the future a new criminal mastermind known as The Rainmaker is closing all the loops which is apparently a bad thing despite the fact that all the loops would be closed in around 30 years or so anyways when time travel is invented.

Before we even get to the real main story of this movie I already have some problems with this plot, all the loopers know their loops get closed and if the reason for closing them is to cover up criminal time travel then they would get closed around the time of it’s invention.  Apparently not and the whole closing the loop thing might just be arbitrary evil bullshit to enable the plot.  Anyways, after all of that nonsense Joe is at a regularly scheduled hit when something goes disastrously wrong as the target is neither bound nor gagged, he is also future Joe.  Future Joe escapes from present Joe and the chase is on for present Joe to close his loop and try to make amends with his criminal organization.  Of course all of this breaks down as future Joe tries to track down The Rainmaker and kill him as a child.

Looper is a film that I certainly enjoy, but wish I could really love.  It sets up an extremely intriguing future world both for the film’s present and the future of that present.  The acting is also really excellent and it is something of a miracle that Rian Johnson got a good performance out of modern Bruce Willis.  The rest of the cast I expect to give great performances, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt in particular both knock their roles out of the park.  Actually this is just a well directed film in almost every regard as it is also impeccably well shot and edited, but there is an inconsistency that rears it’s head as the film progresses.

Firstly that point I made about The Rainmaker’s introduction to the story is a bit of a nitpick but it’s not like they don’t offer material that would have been better suited to be delivered.  Apparently according to brief snippets of news from future Joe’s life montage, The Rainmaker is actually some kind of apocalyptic force of worldwide devastation, wouldn’t that be more likely to give a looper pause then to tell him it’s a different criminal closing the loops then the expected one?  My real big problem though lies in the pacing and how radically it shifts in the last act when present Joe winds up on a Kansas farm with child Rainmaker and his single mother.  It’s not as though I think either of the segments of the film, neither the cyberpunk tech noir nor the small farm family values bit are bad, they are just incongruous and in my opinion they don’t seem to support one another.  The hyper stylized city life and criminal underground sequences don’t build up to a single mom struggling to raise a super mutant on her Kansas farm, nor does said farm life adequately pay off the tension built in the crime segment.

There are also details which I think lend the film to a more conservative analysis than was anticipated.  These are just basic troublesome Hollywood habits, but we really should get over them.  Firstly there is a sex scene between present Joe and the single mother which comes out of nowhere, kind of goes nowhere and really makes the character of the mother seem more insecure than I think she should be.  It just presents single mothers in a bad light for that one scene, as does the idea that without intervention she as a single mother would fail to prevent her son from becoming an apocalyptic force for evil.  Now you could say that it would have been fine if not for future Joe’s attempt to kill the kid, but then we get into this film’s mechanics of time travel which, while well explained for the purposes of the story, don’t make much sense, most time travel movies don’t though so I will let that slide.  So while Looper is certainly an interesting film that is mostly well put together, I find myself far too troubled by many of it’s details, I didn’t even mention yet how future Joe’s life reeks of Hollywood orientalism.  As an interesting film it should probably be watched for it’s good elements, I just don’t dig it’s downsides quite a bit.  2/5

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2 thoughts on “Time Travel Week 2 Day 3: Rian Johnson’s Looper

  1. I totally agree with all of your criticisms but still enjoyed this movie a little more. While reading your review and thinking about Looper, the incongruity between the two sections is plain but somehow it worked for me in the moment. I think more than anything it was nice to see something original that was so well made.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now I don’t know how many times you have watched the film, but for me a lot of the incongruities made themselves apparent on subsequent viewings. As I noticed more details about the world and all that I just became more dissatisfied with how little the film manages to explore that world by the end.

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