SPECIAL FEATURE: Some things to think about in Looper

SPECIAL FEATURE: Some things to think about in Looper

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  1. Looper is touted as a mind-bending thriller.  Well, here are some things to think about that may or may not fry your brain… so get prepared!

    DISCLAIMER:  Some of these things may be hard to wrap your mind around.  They also may lead you to believe that I am indicting the movie as very flawed by pointing out some of the following things.  That is not true.  If you read my article titled "Looper – Time Travelling Action With Heart", you will see that I gave it a resounding A+… I don’t give those out lightly.  Finally, you may want to see the film before reading this since it may contain some spoilers and will simply confuse you if you haven’t seen it.  I will however, try to explain the plot points that are important as I go.

    1.  Butterfly Effect

    Looper follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a tour-de-force performance) who is a specialized assassin called a looper.  He operates in a 2044 dystopian America that combines slick sci-fi and the grimy criminal underworld to create a wonderful Bladerunner-esque look that oozes film noir.  Joe’s job exists because time travel exists… 30 years in the future.  See, when time travel gets invented, it’s immediately outlawed but still used by criminal organizations.  These criminal organizations use it to kill people without having to dispose of their bodies.  They send people – bound, gagged, and hooded – back to 2044 where they appear on a tarp in a field at a very specific time.  As soon as they appear, a looper guns them down and collects a payday of silver bars attached to the target’s back and that target simply disappears from the future… no pesky body to get rid of.

    What doesn’t get addressed, though, is the butterfly effect this would cause.  The mob wants their target dead in 2074 (30 years in the future) but send them back to 2044 to get killed by a looper.  That means that everything the target did from 2044 to 2074 never happened which may make huge changes in the 2074 reality.  To use a rather outrageous example:  what if that target found the cure for cancer in 2054?  Then, when they get killed in 2044, they end up not being alive in 2054 to find that cure.  That, then, would make all the people cured of cancer after 2054 suddenly get their cancer back.  Some of them may even die if their cancer had advanced enough that they would have died before 2074… try and wrap your mind around that.

    2.  Closing the loop… or not.

    Once the mob decides a certain looper needs to retire, they send them one final target… their future self.  The looper isn’t aware that they just killed the future version of themselves until they turn the body over to find gold bars as a payday rather than silver.  Then their “loop is closed” which means they are retired and have 30 years to live.  If you think the butterfly effect of killing people 30 years in the past is tricky, try figuring out what would happen if a looper doesn’t succeed in closing his loop.  That’s what happens when Joe’s future self appears on the tarp.  He is not bound, gagged or hooded and ends up getting away so that he can find and kill the kid version of a powerful criminal that will take over in 30 years and destroy many lives including Future Joe’s wife.

    When a looper fails to close his loop, Abe (the guy who runs the loopers) sends his people to kill the looper and his future self…but what if they don’t succeed?  Think of how this would affect the present (assuming you consider 2044 the present and not 2074, the year the future version was sent back from).  Anything that happens to the younger version of the guy that has long-lasting effects immediately take affect on the future version of the guy.  So let’s pretend the young guy gets in a car accident in which he is paralyzed from the waist down.  The future version of him could be walking along then suddenly lose the ability to move his legs.  Or if the young version gets sick with something that he will die from in 15 years, the future version of him would just disappear.  Even crazier is the fact that as the young guy lives his life, the future version of him will have memories created from his past as he’s living his present… wild stuff.

    3.  The time-travel problem

    The ultimate problem with time travel in general is the fact that it’s not real… thus making it impossible to make even a quasi-realistic narrative involving time travel.  But, for the sake of creativity and story telling, let’s pretend that this isn’t a problem for a moment.  The real problem with Looper‘s time travel is that it requires multiple realities to be going on simultaneously.  Obviously there are at least two realities (probably more) because Old Joe has lived 30 years more than Young Joe but can be sent back to encounter his old self.  Then you have to wonder how Old Joe would be affected by the fact that he ran into his future self earlier in life (when he was Young Joe’s age).  But, since that didn’t happen in his first time living through 2044, with it happening this time, it would clearly affect his personality later in life because that’s not something you easily forget.

    That’s what ultimately makes time travel such a hard thing to write, especially in a way that makes any semblance of logical sense.  Rian Johnson (writer/director) takes this problem and literally brushes it off as "messy" through the words of Old Joe while he discusses some specifics of time travel with Young Joe.  The important thing, though, is that Johnson explains what needs to be explained and leaves the rest up to the audience’s imagination; thus, doing time travel better than most other films have ever done it.  Good job.

    Be sure to check out Nolan’s other reviews and follow Nolan on Twitter for more info on films:  @Nol_Col

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