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It’s taken me a long time to organize my thoughts about this film.  I sort of liked it.  I also found it dark and disturbing.  I thought Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s channeling of Bruce Willis facial expressions and physicality was amazing.  Over on Facebook I said I thought the movie gave me the ending it promised, but after some consideration I think it was maybe a little too subtle.



First off, this is a time travel movie which means you have to check your brain at the door, and just go with the paradoxes, etc.  The film took a tried and true method to deal with that  by just “hanging a lantern on it” ie they have Jeff Daniel’s just say “you can’t think too much about this or it will fry your brain.”  Kudos to them for that.

That being said there has to be some acknowledgement that this technology exists, and how it’s being used by criminals seems really short sighted and idiotic.  They send back people they want dead to be killed in the past because law enforcement is so good in the future that any murderer will be caught.  Okay, so why aren’t the criminals utilizing time travel caught?  And seriously, if you had a time machine wouldn’t you manipulate the stock market and make a fortune that way?  Or is law enforcement so good they would notice if people make a killing in the stock market and just arrest them on general principles?  Which brings us back to the question if the cops are so good why can’t they shut down this pipeline to the past?

So, assuming I got past that now we were into the heart of the story.  One of the big emotional issues for our hero was how Young Joe betrayed his best friend in order to keep his stash of silver/gold, and his guilt over that.  It also led to one of the most horrific moments for me which was when the best friend’s older self starts losing parts off himself — fingers, nose, feet, legs as the bad guys cut them off the younger version.  That was grotesque. 

Anyway, Old Joe (Bruce Willis) arrives in the past to be killed by his younger self, but escapes. Then there was this confusing scene about two different futures with Joe that didn’t totally make sense to me.  Old Joe’s wife got killed in the future when they tried to capture him, and send him back for execution.  He’s determined to prevent her death by killing the master criminal who controls all the mobs up in the future.  Which means Bruce Willis is hunting down and killing children.

And that’s when I found this movie starting to squick me out.  Because I wanted to cheer for Joe, both the Joe’s and suddenly Old Joe is murdering 10 year olds.  So now Old Joe has become the villain instead of the evil crime boss.  My expectations were getting twisted, and I’m torn about that.  It was clever, but if you have committed emotionally to Young Joe, and you buy into the movie then you’re trying to reconcile Young Joe turning into this monster, and you don’t know where to place your emotional commitment.

Meanwhile Young Joe has gone to a farm that Old Joe had marked on a map and met the love interest.  The problem was that they had introduced a Hooker With A Heart Of Gold earlier in the movie, and I thought she was going to amount to something so I spent time focusing on her only to have her drop out the the bottom of the film.

Turns out love interest’s son is going to grow up to be Evil Master Criminal, and he has enormous Teke powers.  They hint at this by showing that his mom has powerful Teke, but they didn’t set it up quite early enough in the movie for it really be effective.  As a result when the kid loses control it rather feels like it came out of nowhere.

Now Old Joe turns up ready to kill the kid to save his wife, and Mom is willing to die to save her child, and Young Joe realizes that everyone is dying for somebody else, and so he commits suicide to prevent all these deaths.  That was sort of cool, and I think it was driven by his guilt over failing to protect his best friend.  But it didn’t quite play because I hadn’t been given enough time with both the young men to believe the friendship, and I didn’t have a real sense of Young Joe’s guilt.

The visuals were powerful, the performances good, but ultimately I came home and felt like I wanted to take a shower.  They talk about how Hollywood panders, but I really don’t like to see a character I thought of as good blowing away children.  Ultimately that’s really not entertainment.

5 Responses to Looper

  • Lou says:

    Well stated. I had some of the same issues and actually, in the theater, covered my eyes with my hand when it was apparent that the young man was going to be shot.

    As a father of three, I cannot abide the depiction of the killing of children. Not even a little bit. I’m still haunted by the short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor, in which a small child is killed offstage. Shudder.

    Well written, Melinda.

  • Melindas says:

    Thanks, Lou. It was an odd film. There was so much about it that was cool and innovative, but turning Old Joe into such a monster really made me uncomfortable. The tried to make the kid scary, and succeeded pretty well, but killing kids… ugh. On a tangent. That’s what made me fall in love with Dr. Who. It was a show with Tom Baker. I think it was Genesis of the Daleks, and the Doctor has the chance to destroy the Daleks before they ever get started, and he refuses because who is he to destroy an entire race. I really loved that. And then damn Mass Effect left me with no option other than that because the other’s were just so gross and creepy.

  • Steve Halter says:

    I had a very similar set of reactions. I enjoyed it but,
    1) Best not to think about the time travel details as things fall apart. (Like once the future guys legs were gone how did he really end up living long enough to get to the past.)
    2) Future Joe killing kids (which is where Hooker w Heart comes back in) was really squicky. Seems like they could have arranged it differently.
    3) The teke was hinted at as a party trick. Maybe if they had just mentioned that the Rainmaker was a really powerful teke, that could have helped.

    I just mentioned to someone that Looper is decent but best not thought of as you are watching while Cloud Atlas was also good, but has to be thought of while watching–kind of opposites.

  • JaniceG says:

    Although I did enjoy the acting and the dramatic arc, I had a problem with the whole plot for the reason you mentioned: If you had time travel, wouldn’t you put it to better use than to send back guys to kill them? Besides stock market tips, there are scientific inventions or medical breakthroughs or a whole host of things that could make you a lot of money. (Another point: if they have trouble getting rid of dead bodies, what was the deal with Future Joe’s dead wife? If the cops couldn’t trace that murder back to them, why would they be able to trace the other ones back to them?) I must admit, though, that I actually sort of bought Young Joe’s relating to the little kid’s possible future as an abandoned child because of his own background.

    Time travel stories are always tricky because of paradoxes and the biggest paradox IMHO was the Rainmaker. (Steve: The film established that you could create alternate time lines so I didn’t have much of a problem with the future guy’s getting amputations.) Supposedly, the little kid becoming the evil Rainmaker is triggered by Future Joe killing his mother in front of him and leaving him abandoned. However, in Future Joe’s already-established existing future, the mother hasn’t been killed yet because he hasn’t been sent back to the past yet. So the evil Rainmaker wouldn’t have existed.

  • Melindas says:

    I accept that time travel stories aren’t going to make a lot of sense. I think Back to the Future did it best, but it was the squik factor that really got to me. Watching Willis kill kids was just not cool

    I saw ARGO tonight, and it’s friggin’ _great_!

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