06/11/2012 § 1 Comment
Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe, a killer for the mob. The movie is set in 2044 and 2074, which is when time-travelling has been invented. You can never go to the future, at least according to the movie, a simple fact of time travel that the mob exploits by sending their marks backwards in time to be killed by loopers like Joe. The reason for this turn of events is two-fold: first, the government has basically begun tracking citizens (making it impossible to dispose of a body without getting caught); second, the government has banned time travel.
The plot contrivances are necessary to advance the story, and frankly the plot serves mostly as set-dressing for a broader exploration of certain themes, the most notable of which is love. In the beginning of the movie, Joe is motivated by love for France. He saves up all his money so he can retire there and enjoy life in France. His drug addiction threatens to undo this, as does his loyalty for his friends.
Old Joe, played by a surprisingly sympathetic Bruce Willis, is also motivated by love, albeit in the form of revenge. Once Joe gets his loop (a fairly complicated plot device best explained by watching the movie), he moves overseas, gets high as balls all the time, and runs out of money. He eventually moves to Asia and joins a gang, stealing from everyone to support his drug habit. Then he finds the love of a good (and hot and young) woman who cleans him up and redeems him. Eventually he is tracked down and sent to have his loop closed (this is basically when the mob rounds up their loopers to send them back to their young selves to be killed, with a huge payday to match). In the process his wife is killed, which prompts Old Joe to break free, head back to the past, and avoid getting killed by his younger self, all in order to kill off the boss that was supposed to kill him.
It’s during this time that the movie shifts gears. Originally, the movie focuses on how Young Joe is going to avoid closing his own loop in order to live happily ever after (though the logic of the movie’s universe would suggest that this is nonsensical for obvious reasons; once you go back to the past, you can’t return to the present, and you won’t be able to pick up where your old life left off, and you’ll always have to be on the run). This leads Old Joe to track down his eventual killer in the hopes of preemptively killing him as a child, thus altering his future. Logic seems to break down, but the movie provides a neat explanation through some subtle dialogue that prevents further distraction.
At any rate, Young Joe is not at all on board with Old Joe’s decision because this means giving up his dream. This touches on another theme: how people remain constant over time. Both Old Joe and Young Joe are very selfish, which is why they don’t cooperate with one another. But it is only by their (his?) constant selfishness that they even meet at all. Anyhow, in the process of trying to preemptively kill his killer, Old Joe sets the stage for the main point of the movie.
As Old Joe tries to kill off his would-be killer, Young Joe baits him by tracking down a potential target and guarding him. This leads Joe to meeting Sara, played by the always excellent Emily Blunt. Sara is distrustful of Joe, but in time gradually accepts him and they bond. Sara has a child named Cid, and there’s a lot of contrived backstory to their relationship that is better seen than explained. Cid has telekinetic powers, which is what enables him to track down and kill off loopers and the mob in the future. Young Joe defends him, even though it means his eventual death, and comes to realize that if he defends Cid from Old Joe, he may stave off the problem altogether. Some more plot contrivances occur, involving some very entertaining action scenes with Bruce Willis, a la Die Hard. Eventually Old Joe tracks down Cid and tries to kill him. Young Joe catches on in time and attempts to shoot Old Joe. This fails, naturally, and so Young Joe decides to bow his own brains out, which naturally kills off Old Joe in the process and ensures that Cid survives. The movie ends with a voiceover about destiny and how a single decision can have great impact. It’s reminiscent of Frost’s “The Road Less Travelled.”
In all, the film is complex, a little self-contradictory, and over-reliant on plot devices to explore themes. Nonetheless, it is incredibly entertaining, and quite thought-provoking. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jeff Daniels, and Emily Blunt are all quite fun to watch. The movie is action-packed; the dialogue is crisp, clear, and subtle. The story is believable enough, and the overarching themes—destiny and love—are presented in a very thought-provoking way. For all of its weaknesses, this is still a very good movie.