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Monday, October 01, 2012

'Round the Looper

time. Time, the final - or perhaps first - frontier to be breached by science. Time travel movies are often confusing and illogical, but Rian Johnson's Looper presents viewers with a coherent time-jumping story that includes two well-realized futures.

The main action of Looper takes place in 2044. An unnamed American city is awash in poverty and violence, and it seems as though only criminals enjoy a decent standard of living. Loopers are among the criminal elite, men who are paid to kill people from the future, victims of organized crime in the 2070s, sent thirty years backwards in time for elimination since bodies are too hard to hide in the future.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a Looper who dreams of escaping third-world America by relocating to France. But his plans are derailed when his own future self (Bruce Willis) appears as his own latest victim. Young Joe and Old Joe are forced to fight for their own versions of their lives, chasing each other while being chased by the mob bosses who want them both dead.

It sounds confusing, but Johnson takes pains to keep the chronology consistent and understandable, allowing the audience to enjoy the characters and the crumbling America they inhabit. One of the film's greatest strengths is its vision of the near future; the world looks much the same save for a few logical extrapolations of current technology. It's quite convincing.

Johnson handles a number of time travel tropes quite cleverly, particularly the problem of what happens to the future version of a character when something happens to the present version.

To elaborate further would spoil some rewarding surprises, so I'll conclude only by noting that with its clever plot, inventive setting and complex characters, Looper is well worth your


Totty said...

there. I see what you did

"The Jeffrice" said...

I had to think about this for a long time, but I disagree that time travel movies are illogical. Usually, they aren't all that confusing, either, although the macguffin of time travel sometimes lends itself into shaggy dog tales. Usually by then end, though, everything is made clear. The Tim Burton Planet Of The Apes might be the only exception that I can think of: it's the only DVD that I have where the movie people included a postcard chart to explain the events.

I've narrowed time travel into two subsets: A) Technology versus Fantasy and B) Objective versus Subjective.

With Technological TT, there is some kind of time machine that takes up plot space. HG Wells' The Time Machine comes to mind as the archetype. Fantasy TT usually involves some kind of magic or mystical force. WP Kinsella's Field Of Dreams would do. (Letterman voice intro: HG meet WP. WP meet HG. HG, WP. WP, HG. Now I see why he doesn't do any more Oscars.) I would suggest that there could be a wide blurry line that delimits these two genres. Even so, the logic of TT is laid out in clear terms even if the mechanics of it are beyond our understanding.

Then too, you have Objective TT where the time travel is a physical fact, complete with grandfather rules and squishing butterflies in the Jurassic. The interest in the film is for the audience to learn these rules and then see how the characters choose to obey them. The JCVD flick TimeCop is as good an example as any, so is Spielberg's Back To The Future. Subjective TT is personal internal TT, the kind of film where it's left up in the air as to whether TT is even possible. Something like Life On Mars would be a good example. The subject of TT might be debatable, but the logic of it seems solid to me. Subjective TT stories sometimes set up TT as a gimmick, but then make it ambiguous as to whether or not it is believable within the context of the story. The audience is left to decide on their own how or if TT would work.

At the end of the story, at least one character has to fully believe in TT for it to work. As long as the viewer can follow the action of that one character, they can follow the logic of the TT.