It was hard to decide what to see this week. I wasn’t keen on Looper, since it was a time travel movie and it would probably stop making sense at some point. But I was hearing great things about it and not so great things about my other two choices: Hotel Transylvania and Won’t Back Down. So in the end, I did see Looper. The trailer didn’t give me much of the story, which is actually quite a lot like The Terminator, with the part of Skynet played by mobsters.
To save his own life, an hit man must track down and kill his future self, who has come back in time to kill a child who will grow up to be a powerful mobster.
I wasn’t expecting much from Looper, and not just because it’s a time travel movie. It also stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis (two of my not favorites) and is set in a world where mobsters control time travel, yet use it only to dispose of bodies. But it actually turned out to be pretty cool. It even made a bit of sense.
At the beginning of the movie, we’re introduced to Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Joe’s face has been covered in age makeup which makes him almost unrecognizable. When I saw the trailer, I assumed they had done that because younger regular faced Joseph Gordon-Levitt would also be a character, but he isn’t. I can only assume they did it because they could, and because it would make him look a bit more like Bruce Willis.
I wondered why he was pulling weird faces all the time,
then I realized he was imitating Willis’ expressions.
Anyway, so it’s 2044 and Joe’s been hired by Abe (Jeff Daniels), a mobster from the future, to assassinate the mob’s enemies. They’re sent back from the future, appearing conveniently on plastic sheeting laid out in distant cornfields wearing a sack over their heads, at which point the hit man (known as a Looper) blasts them into oblivion with a giant shotgun known as a blunderbuss (a word which fell out of use around 1850). Several bars of silver are strapped to the victim’s back as payment for the looper’s work.
Tick tock, time to earn my keep.
Loopers aren’t allowed to see who they’re killing, because eventually the person they’re supposed to kill will be their future selves, at which point they reach looper retirement, get a big payout, and cavort for about thirty years until they’re eventually kidnapped by mobsters and shoved into a time machine with a sack over their heads.
Time to go, say the futuristic mobsters, who have been buying
their clothes at an Al Capone costume supply warehouse.
If it sounds like it would be difficult to kidnap and murder someone who knew it was going to happen, it’s apparently not, because the only person who managed to avoid getting killed by their past selves is Future Joe (Bruce Willis), who beans regular Joe with a gold bar and takes off on some unknown mission. Regular Joe instantly becomes persona non grata with his mobster buddies, who want to capture him and cut off his fingers until his future self turns himself in to be murdered.
Okay guys, so let’s show up at his house, and mow everything down
with machine guns like we get our battle plans from Scarface.
Unfortunately Joe gets killed instead, resetting the loop somehow so that this time he shoots his future self right away, get his payoff, cavorts, marries an Asian lady (Qing Xu), then is kidnapped and sent back to be killed. But because his wife was also killed, he gets mad, fights back, and escapes from Joe like the first time. This time, even though the exact same things happen, young Joe doesn’t die for some reason and we continue on with the story as Joe chases Old Joe around trying to kill him.
It says a lot about Joe’s character that it doesn’t occur to either
of his selves that they should team up against the mobsters.
To keep it from being super easy for Old Joe to avoid young Joe (after all, he should remember everything that young Joe does, seeing as how he used to be young Joe), writer/director Rian Johnson makes it so that Old Joe’s memories are amorphous until after young Joe has already done something.
OLD JOE: I don’t wanna talk about time travel.
ME: Yeah, because you have no fu**ing clue.
Eventually young Joe figures out Old Joe is killing kids who might grow up to be the person who sent guys to kill his wife, so Joe shows up at the farm where Sara (Emily Blunt) and her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) live, hoping Old Joe will show up so he can kill him and have his life back. (See? It’s so much like Terminator they even named the mom Sara). But of course during the time he stays with them, be begins to care about them, which changes him into slightly less of a selfish douchebag and alters history.
But MY kid is cuter than the others… if a touch creepy. Can’t you save us, you big brave man you?
There are a lot of things that don’t make sense about Looper when you think too hard about them, particularly when it comes to the time loops and which causes have which effects in which loop, so my advice is just not to think about it. It’s actiony and fun to watch, and the ending is terrific. Very moving, if a touch easy to guess. You should go see it, especially if you’re a mob movie fan rather than a sci-fi enthusiast. Sci-fi enthusiasts should probably just put in their Terminator DVDs.