Now and then
Ryan Summerlin October 4, 2012
Those interested in the multi-verse theory (positing universes stacked atop one another like sheets of paper), may appreciate the twists in “Looper,” a story that tracks outcomes that are ever-changing, based upon a character’s present day actions.
One multi-verse theory holds that our universe splits to represent each possible decision we could make. Theoretically, the same holds true for the new “universes” created by each possibility, meaning we each create untold numbers of outcomes in an uncountable number of universes.
“Looper,” the tale of a young assassin confronted by his older, possibly wiser self, finds the young killer wrestling with his desire and ability to change his likely future.
When we meet Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he’s a hard-working assassin and a hard-playing recreational-drug user. He’s described as being a looper, because he (and others like him) execute targets sent back in time by a future Mafia. The year is 2044, a date 28 years before the invention of time-travel in 2072. For reasons never explained, time-travel is immediately outlawed in 2072, but not before the Mafia gets its dirty mitts on the technology.
As Joe explains (in voiceover), in the year 2072 a body is virtually impossible to hide, prompting the Mafia to send Abe (Jeff Daniels) back in time, in order to oversee an organization of hit men based in 2044.
Their method of killing is undeniably clever. Each assassin arrives at a predetermined destination, at a preordained time, where he awaits his target’s arrival. Since the target arrives hooded, cuffed, and on his knees, killing him is normally a breeze. The killer spreads a tarp and fires an outsized gun the moment the target materializes.
Strapped to the target’s back are numerous bars of silver that serve as the assassin’s payment. Viewers will quickly note that these highly paid killers have landed the easiest jobs of any killer on film in memory. Perhaps the arrangement is fair, since each has agreed, in his looper contract, to kill the older version of himself, who will be sent back in time from 2072 – thus closing his “loop.” That killing, paid in bars of gold worth several million dollars, marks the looper’s retirement.
Joe believes he is prepared for this eventuality, although it hasn’t occurred to him, or to any looper, that their older selves might remember the arrangement, and thus have plans of their own. Such a plan unfolds when Joe’s older self, played with a smirk and wry wit by Bruce Willis, appears on young Joe’s tarp and manages to outsmart young Joe.
For reasons that aren’t explained, Abe always knows when a target sent back in time isn’t killed. Provided Abe can track the errant looper, he has a no-miss remedy for the situation.
Willis’ Old Joe reasons, that if he can find and kill the young boy who will grow up to run the future Mafia, then he can change young Joe’s destiny.
For this reason, both old and young Joe end up at an isolated farm where the young boy in question resides. The lad’s mother, played with determination by Emily Blunt, seems overwhelmed by the task of raising a talented, unbalanced young genius (another weak story link).
I found the action during film’s final moments particularly improbable, prompting me to consider the film’s inconsistencies. At times, writer-director Rian Johnson leaps over inconvenient story aspects in what seems to be a lazy way to avoid answering the questions raised. Alternately, he occasionally dwells too long on scenes that do little to either enhance the plot or character development. While the film is short on tension, fans of all genres will appreciate Johnson’s attempt to examine whether giving us the option to change the future is worth doing, no matter the cost – an interesting idea to contemplate.