‘Looper’ Takes Viewers’ Minds for a Spin

All cycles eventually have their end, but who would have guessed that the end of your cycle would require you to kill a 30-year-older version of yourself? In Rian Johnson’s movie “Looper,” time travel hasn’t been invented in the year 2044 – but time travel becomes available in 2074 and is made illegal. Only mob bosses of big-time crime organizations in 2074 are the ones who use this technology to send their targets back to the year 2044 to be promptly killed by “loopers.” Armed with blunderbusses, expensive cars and futuristic eye-droplet drugs, loopers live great, rich lives. But, life as a crime syndicate has strings attached; ending one’s job contract (also known as “closing the loop”) requires loopers to kill the future version of themselves. The concept of futuristic organized crime and time travel are definitely treats for sci-fi thriller fans. But the real thriller–the real thing that makes viewers’ minds spin with anticipation–is the series of unexpected turns and the hint of uncertainty of the future that are conveyed in the looper lifestyle and the movie itself.

In the year 2044, Joe, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Inception,” “500 Days of Summer”), works as one of these loopers. Killing the mob’s targets is a daily routine for Joe, who is hoping to eventually be able to escape to live a life in Paris. Despite his plan, every day Joe checks his watch and waits for his victim to be beamed onto a tarp, limbs bound and head bagged, for him to shoot. But when Joe is faced with an unbound man one day, he realizes that his loop is at its close; the man in front of him is himself, 30 years in the future.

Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis (“Die Hard,” “Pulp Fiction”), desperately makes a run for his life, and Joe launches into a frenzy to kill his “loop.” But while Old Joe and Joe have completely different motives, they are still the same person. Joe finds out in a diner encounter with Old Joe that in the 2074, a maniac called “The Rainman” is the one who is organizing the loop closing. Old Joe sets out to kill The Rainman in 2044 to stop the loop closing and to have his life in the future returned to normalcy. Joe goes along with the plan at first, wanting to resume his present life without worry. But things take a turn when Joe realizes that killing The Rainman in 2044 would entail killing a five-year-old child. After realizing this, Joe is faced with constant decisions of whether he wants to fix the past in accordance to a planned future, or if he will jeopardize the future to follow his intuition in the present.

Yes, the concepts of time travel and high-run mob life in the middle of the century are interesting on their own, but the real attractions is the mass uncertainty that exists in the seemingly consistent looping itself. Joe’s life in the city loops around in the same pattern every day; kill one of the mob’s targets, practice his French for his dream trip to Paris, drop drugs into his eyes, drive in fast cars and have casual hookups with his stripper friend. But in this loop, there’s a discontinuity–a part where the norm takes a turn and Joe’s faced with the decision to kill his future self or let him run. And with each decision Joe makes come new storyline loops that spin viewers along.

Although the movie is s set in a time that’s far in the future, “Looper” touches on the reality that people in both our past and present have encountered. Sure, we don’t have time machines in the present. But our actions can stem from a need to fix things that are wrong in our past. While on this path to rectifying the past to reach an ideal future for ourselves though, the present continues to run in its own loop. But just like Joe, the question is whether a person would be willing to kill of his or her own self–the planned future for oneself –and to take the present moment to venture into the uncertainty of the future. Although all cycles eventually have their end, “Looper” will have your mind spinning with thoughts for quite a while.