“Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been.”
Rian Johnson gives us his take on time travel in the recent film, Looper, featuring rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and old pro Bruce Willis. The film takes place in the year 2074, and from the onset we are informed by a disembodied voice, later attached to the protagonist Joe, that time travel will be invented three decades from his time and that when it is the risk-level of murdering a person and getting caught is very high. Therefore, mobsters from 30 years in the future send back their hits to the past where hired assassins like Joe, called loopers, kill them. The story takes a turn when Joe is tasked with killing his future self (Bruce Willis), or in looper jargon, “closing his loop.” SPOILERS LIE AHEAD, FRIENDS.
Breaking Bad director Rian Johnson does not disappoint with this film. The primary concern with films that take place in the future is that there is enough believability to remove the disconcerting effort, on the viewers part, of suspending disbelief. Johnson was able to succeed in that regard. The future that he constructs, 62 years from now, has biological, social, and technical advances that stem realistically from ones we are familiar with today. Johnson strategically plants plot points by incorporating certain advances that later become relevant in the film. His techniques are clear and effective, which are necessary qualities in a science fiction film.
The story really gets rolling after all the nuances of the future are established. Us Breaking Bad fans were excited to see that Johnson couldn’t resist the gritty addition of a new drug to the futuristic world; a drug that Joe is addicted to. But beyond that small treat, things really ramped up (and got a little mixed up chronology-wise) when Joe seemingly failed to close his loop, or in other words, kill himself. We are originally presented with a scene wherein Joe is bested by his older self, who escapes without being killed. Then time is rewound and we see the original event, where Joe successfully closes his loop, goes on to live his life, and as his
older self witnesses the death of his wife by mobsters who were enlisted to close his loop and all other loops by a man called the ‘Rainmaker.’ Thereon Old Joe decides to change events and live in order to ensure the safety of his wife’s future. It’s not easy to follow, as we tend to think of time as completely linear and time travel fucks that all up, but Johnson makes relatively clean work of it.
From this point in the story there exists a conflict of interests between young and old Joe. Young Joe wants to secure his job and the next 30 years of his life, and old Joe wants to save his future by killing the young Rainmaker, before he/she can even become the Rainmaker. In a shuffle between the two young Joe accidentally obtained the coordinates of one of the children old Joe though might be the Rainmaker, and then the story takes an unexpected turn. One might event call it a twist. The rest of the film is a wonderful secret that can only be imparted through the privilege of viewing it (gotta draw the line somewhere!).
Fledgeling leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt was impressive as per usual. For those of us who swoon over him it was a bit difficult to adjust to the fact that it looked like Bruce Willis’ face had been copied and pasted onto his, but the desired effect of making them look like different versions of the same man was more or less achieved. Bruce Willis is always convincing as the brawny, but in love, ruggedly handsome older man. They both brought the required emotion, and I walked away believing that they were both Joe, and that they were both motivated by profound hurt and loss, which makes the ending very powerful.
Looper was a very solid time travel film, with an unexpected emotional twinge, and an ironic twist that gives new meaning to “breaking the cycle.”