Have you all seen Looper, the new Bruce Willis movie? (Also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of Inception and The Dark Knight Rises…a rather high percentage of the movies I’ve seen lately.) Let’s talk about it!
Before I get to the spoilers, here’s a capsule review: Smart SF action/drama, much better than it looks from the trailer. Makes a thorough exploration of its SFnal premise (time travel with very specific parameters). Best watched when you’re in the mood to be made to think. Don’t expect it to pass the Bechdel Test, though. If you liked 12 Monkeys, you’ll probably like Looper.
Here be spoilers…
My biggest reaction to the film? Impressed by the handling of the premise. Time travel is hard to handle in a way that makes sense (I know, I’ve tried!), and the filmmakers managed it beautifully. There might have been one or two missteps, as far as I can tell. But the director also drops in small things that don’t make sense until later, or gives characters an offhand comment about something important and expects the audience to keep up. In other words, he trusts the audience — something that’s far too rare in Hollywood.
My second biggest reaction? Impressed by the character arcs and the structure, the insistence on no easy answers. Early on, it looks as if Young Joe is going to have to get over his lifestyle and learn the wisdom that will turn him into Old Joe. We take a detour to the farm, where it looks as if Sara will teach him to go straight, just as Old Joe’s wife taught him, and he’ll become a father figure to Cid and they’ll all live happily ever after. (Remember what I said about the Bechdel Test? Yeah. At least Sara gets to shoot a gun.)
BUT. Then you start to realize that something is very wrong with Cid, and Sara won’t let him go. There was a point midway through, about when I realized that Cid was probably the Rainmaker, when I thought, “This is not going to end well.” And then we see Old Joe being so fixated on his wife that he’s shooting children, and Cid exploding people and then turning around and hugging Young Joe (awwwww). When was the last time you were truly surprised by the direction of a plot?
But we get to the end, and suddenly Old Joe becomes the antagonist and Young Joe has to make a decision that’s completely unexpected and yet inevitable, given all the setup in that ghastly scene with the disappearing body parts, and at the same time it’s the final leap in his character arc. And all this in an action movie. Wow.
Okay, it’s not a perfect film. You might grant that the basic premise is flimsy. If it’s so dangerous to kill people in 2074 that criminals must be sent back in time 30 years before they can be shot, why didn’t the goons hesitate to kill Joe’s wife? Why does time travel only work in 30-year increments? Or, what is it about 2044 that makes it an attractive time to go back to?
You might also quibble with some of the time travel logic or the movie structure. For example, how is it that we see Old Joe appear in front of Young Joe twice? (My theory is that the second time, we’re watching what happens to create Old Joe. But I’m not sure how that’s supposed to work.) And why does Old Joe say that the Rainmaker is supposed to have a synthetic jaw? After all, that injury can’t have happened in Old Joe’s timeline. But how did the Rainmaker get created in Old Joe’s timeline anyway? (My theory is that Cid could have turned into the Rainmaker in more than one way…but that still doesn’t explain the synthetic jaw.)
Still, it’s the best movie I’ve seen since Source Code and Black Swan last year. Yes, it even beat out the banter in The Avengers, at least in my books.
Your turn! What did you think of Looper? What puzzled you? What answers have you come up with?