Directed by Rian Johnson
Produced by Ram Bergman, James D. Stern
Written by Rian Johnson
Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan. Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels
Music by Nathan Johnson
Cinematography by Steve Yedlin
Editing by Bob Ducsay
Studio FilmDistrict, Endgame Entertainment, DMG Entertainment
Distributed by TriStar Pictures, Alliance Films
Release date September 28, 2012 (United States)
Running time 118 minutes
If there is a textbook formula for a cult classic, I think Looper would be the textbook example of the phenomenon. The film’s already bold story set in a fraudulent society is just a compliment to the iconic regular bad-ass Joe, played by the prolific Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose performances in many works this year have been so spectacular that I will gladly detract myself from a semi-objective critic’s position to say, “Man, that guy is just awesome.” Looper protagonist, simply named Joe, does not give a fuck about things. He indulges in a life of crime, sex, and drugs. He is so absorbed in this noxious lifestyle and this conspicuity is only emphasized when the plot progresses to the point when his future self pays him a visit to affirm it. Even then, still, Joe does not give one fuck. He disregards what he himself, technically, considers the most meaningful thing in his life, the woman who took him away from his decadence, rehabilitated him, saved his life. It’s an apathy that transcends anything other than concern for himself, until our regular Joe comes to experience compassion for the first present time himself. And that’s life.
For films as stylistic as Looper, my main gripe has always been that they sacrifice the potential for a much more engrossing expanded plot. Looper isn’t an exception to this vexation, but I have to admit that it is the closest to. In what we can call the exposition, which consists of the first quarter or so of the film, the setting of Joe’s world and a glimpse of its social climate is established, alongside some terminology including “Loopers,” “closing your loop,” “TK,” and more. TK especially, which I assume stands for telekinesis, appealed to me. And as expected, it played a great part in the movie, employed quite brilliantly. (As that post sexual intercourse connection between Joe and Sara that to me, demonstrated the two could have been legitimate lovers had life been different. And then again to reveal the plot twist that the Rainmaker’s success of conquest in the future that nobody could comprehend was actually due to his transcended telekinesis. Most probably. Because honestly, even without his telekinesis, Cid seemed to fucking intelligent for a child of that age. In turn though, that acumen is probably connected to, or a result even of, his evolved telekinesis.) At this point, I feel Looper has already done a better job than most films at using story elements as more than just plot devices. Sticking specifically to the case of TK, yes, it was a well-employed story element that contributed to the thrill of the movie being satisfactory. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel myself wanting more out of what had already occurred. If I was to ask anyone what he or she thought would happen at the end of the movie, I would bet his or her answer would be, “He dies.” Maybe people would answer without suspicion that he kills himself (not considering the peculiarity that he exists doubly in the story) but they would still answer so. More so than that however, I wonder if writer Rian Johnson had scribed the story with this ending in mind from the beginning. Personally, I believe that that the style of the film is what beckons for Joe’s death mostly. Admittedly, it fits the theme of the movie. The lonesome protagonist with a macabre past rebels against the corrupt machinations of society until he finally finds his meaning in life and sacrifices his own to protect that meaning from the same corruption that tainted him. This is the plot of Looper. And quite honestly, there are only two things that detract it from other crime films of the same sort. One is the unique inclusion of time travel. This timely addition also added that hint of “mind-fuckage” in the same vein (but to a lesser degree) of movies like Inception. To put it in colloquial jargon and to quote a friend, “That shit was a big-ass mind fuck.” And I agree with my friend, the use of time travel in this story was pretty damn mind-fucking. How they represented Joe’s best friend Seth being murdered by his future self losing limb by limb and being unable to perform simple motor tasks such as pressing the accelerator of the car or even walking. It might just be the only form of censorship I’ve admired because the creativity of it was something worth marveling at. In a way, Seth’s future self’s deficiency to save himself was almost as disheartening to witness as his murder. (That might just be the most wrong thing I’ve typed…) So yeah, that’s the forward portrayal of me being impressed. But here comes the recliner. Surely Joe didn’t want to kill himself. As it was portrayed, it was the last resort. The end option once disaster could not be avoided. But in opposition to the bullet in the gun, I think the pen on the paper (or more appropriately, script) could have easily prevented this. –Insert respective argument about the author being able to present his own story here- To me, the potential for a more expansive and compelling story was readily present before the climax of the film. There were two controversies of social nature that I believe could have made for a more boldly enthralling sequence of events. With the complications of crime and time, (I’m so tempted to make a pun revolving around the expression “You do the crime, you do the time” right now.) Joe’s life was a heavy load on the mind, even for us viewers just watching it unfold. But when his future self makes his entrance, he brings with him even more formidably grave and anachronistic issues. And that is where shit gets even more real. (Seriously, in comparison to time travelling assassins, these issues are quite socially authentic and interpersonally relevant.) By the end of the film, Joe literally re-arranges the rest of his life, altering more than thirty of the debatably happiest years of his life. He never uses his stash of silver to move to China (or France). He never meets the love of (one of) his life (or lives). He never rehabilitates. He never settles down. And it’s interesting because it was part of his character to reject the happiness his future self explained before him. He ends up killing himself to protect another woman and essentially humanity. It’s arguable whether he saved the life of someone he fell in love with or not. But either way, the matter brings up the completely intriguing prospect of having a true love. Or something in that manner. In my opinion, it’s in the nature of stories like Looper to have the cold-hearted protagonist finally end his own suffering by finding love in some form. So, it’s also in my opinion that Looper could have been extraordinary bolder to explore that crevice that most stories leave the corpse of their protagonist just outside of. (And it sucks it didn’t because I was really hoping he ended up with his love in China. She seemed to sweet.) Joe and his anachronistic self may have been the same person, but through the course of the movie, they developed as different characters, even when facing the same predicament. While future Joe faced the distraught of killing then innocent children (at that point in his life, each child was innocent even if he grew up to be the Rainmaker) to preserve his blessed life with his lover, present Joe conversely dealt with the issue of killing an innocent child because he had the latency to enslave humanity and eventually does, under one version of circumstances. This is, to me, is a mind-fuckage beyond the mind-fuckage of time paradoxes. Sure, time paradoxes can have any person, genius or dim-witted, massaging the furrows in his or her forehead in pure confusion, but these matters that force the very moral fiber of a character’s being is what really makes you, the viewer, contemplate. Needless to say, (if you watched the movie) child actor Pierce Gagnon did a tremendous job at portraying the potential iniquity in Cid, future the Rainmaker. I nearly wanted to put a bullet in his head myself the first time he broke out in telekinetic insanity at his mother. Sara too was so terrified (for both her son and her own safety, I presume) that she had to abandon her attempt to assert a dominant mother role and flee to another room in which she took refuge in a safe, quite obviously kept for just these kinds of outbreaks. In that sense, it’s completely understandable when Joe has the outright intention to put a bullet through Cid’s head when he realizes (and witnesses the likely chaos of when) the child grows up to become the Rainmaker. Ultimately, Joe sees the other side of the loop and believes Cid can use his ability for good (or just not for evil is good enough really) through proper parental nourishment. Similarly to the true love prospect, I see an equally bright prospect here. There’s so many connections and interweavings here. Joe realizes that Cid is the same kind of victim as him, one who lacked the love of a mother. So he gambles the fate of humanity that a mother can stop a dictator. There are so many reasons why this is a ridiculous gamble, but it’s completely in his character to take it. Joe had been a part of crime and murder for the prime of his life. He let his best friend die to preserve his saving of silver. He never experienced the capabilities of motherly love because he never had a mother. But in the end, he puts his money and life on the line believing in it. From my personal knowing, plenty of mothers fail at raising a child under just normal circumstances. (But there’s so much room for debate about what makes a successful mother and what normal familial circumstances are, really) The matter of killing or raising a child of inexplicably lethal telekinetic powers is one that could leave the Supreme Court Justices in an unyielding loop of debate. But when the matter is decided upon emotion as opposed to judicial practicality, that’s when things are much more engaging. And that is my best description of what I wanted more from Looper. A proper analytic predicament devoid of a way out in the form of suicide. Something that could really make something out of Joe. Something that could make Joe more than a regular Joe.
*If I seem unimpressed by the movie, that’s not the case at all. I actually consider it one of the best movies I’ve watched this year albeit I can’t vouch that I’ve watched many movies of this year.