07 October 2012


Soo... I saw Looper last weekend and I've spent this weekend thinking about it and what my feelings are.

First off, there's a moment early on when you first see Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his Bruce Willis make-up where part of you genuinely freaks out a little and it's very uncanny valley. When I first saw the trailers I had the same reaction. But after a little bit you start to see the little smirks and eyebrow raises (at one point JGL checks his hairline in a mirror and I started giggling uncontrollably for about five minutes). After a little bit I was more enthralled with how well Gordon-Levitt plays Bruce Willis. And in the end he's as much playing Willis as he is playing the Looper character. He is supremely believable in the role and I totally bought the younger/older version of one person way more than I have in other movies.

So onto the plot which is more straight-forward than it seems. There are a group of Hitmen known as 'Loopers'. They sign up for a big paycheck in the present to kill people sent back from the future. They get their payout when they kill their Future-Self. Present-Person gets 30 years of fine living until their loop runs out and they get sent back to be killed by their younger self. In Looper, Future-Joe makes a run for it instead of waiting to be shot by his Present-Self. He goes on a quest to prevent some terrible things in the future, causing Present-Joe to have to chase him.

And that's all I want to say before I get into the serious spoilers I'm going to go into below.

There's an interesting question here that if someone gets hit by a bus 20 years in the future does their Present-Self have to work as a Looper that whole 20 years? They only get to quit when their loop closes so if their loop doesn't close do they have to work forever? Or does the Future-Mob send a note back on someone?

There is a great side-bit part played by Jeff Daniels that is absolutely fantastic but I don't want to give any of him away.

I walked out of this movie with mixed feelings (mainly because of the ending) but the more I think on it the more I just absolutely love it. The movie take a subject that any two geeks can argue for days about and presents it in a way that has a logical consistency to it. Which is impressive in and of itself. The human drama is okay and there are some pretty unexpected twists in there that I really enjoyed when they came around. I'm not sure it will make my list of top tem movies, but I'd definitely put it in the top 25.

I was going to mark out spoilers about my thoughts on the time-travel aspect but it's fairly long so I'm just going to put it under a cut instead. Spoilers Ahoy, click at your own risk!

The ending. The one thing I hear everyone complaining about is the ending. Future-Joe is about to kill someone and in order to stop him Present-Joe shoots himself in the chest. He dies, thus causing Future-Joe to cease to exist.

But of course if he dies in the present then he's not around in the future at all to come back and cause the mayhem that causes his present self to commit suicide and so he doesn't kill himself so future him does come back and the OMG this is why we don't make movies about time-travel.

Except the more I think about it the more I see the that movie, while playing fast and loose with traditional ideas of time-travel, is actually internally consistent and makes a lot of sense. And depending on how you interpret the multi-verse theory is not actually that dumb an idea

Take for example the early scene where Seth's (another Looper) Future self runs before Present-Seth can shoot him. Present-Seth is captured and in a pretty great scene as we follow Future-Seth we see scars appear on his arm and body parts disappearing. The theory being that if you do something to Present-Person they will appear on Future-Person simultaneously (although healed of course). This is where we get our first indication that people don't loop exactly within their own timeline. They can't by this logic. Future-Seth lived a healthy life thus that when he came back he had two good legs to make his run on. If we take it that Present-Seth and Future-Seth live exactly in the same timeline then he wouldn't have been able to make his original run. He had no feet. The two are obviously connected, but they're not the exact same guy.

So let's get to Joe. The movie has four distinct timelines that he "lives" through.

In the first Present-Joe doesn't shoot his Future-Self and Future gets away. Later, while trying to escape from hitmen Present-Joe falls of a building and dies. The movie resets itself into the second timeline and this time he immediately shoots his future self. He collects his paycheck and goes on to live a not terribly productive life. Grows up into Bruce Willis and falls in love with someone way too good for him. At the end of it, he choses to purposefully go back in time in order to prevent his Future-Wife from being killed and goes back to the third timeline. Now, we know this isn't the same as timeline two because Present-Joe doesn't get to shoot Future-Joe.

Most of the movie takes place in timeline three. And I'm not going to go into the middle bits but skip to the end. As I said above, Present-Joe kills himself to prevent Future-Joe from killing a little boy and his mother. Yes, this creates a paradox in the strictest sense but we've already seen in the Seth case (and with the Present-Joe death) that the timeline is not immutable and that the relationship between Present & Future Loopers is not as direct as it seems. We can make a pretty valid assumption that by killing himself Present-Joe will now awake into a fourth timeline and get to go through it all again. In fact, it's quite likely that every Loop ends with the Future-Person going back to the next timeline, not their own - and it's not just a causal effect of having changed things. All time travel creates multi-verses.

So third timeline is now "invalid" and reality moves on to timeline four. But the interesting part to me is not the seeming paradox in the ending but that the movie is quite obvious in that timeline three is not actually invalid. It doesn't cease to exist, we see the world continue on without Present-Joe.

The impression I got in the end is that the Loopers, by time-travelling, skip across these different timelines. Some they hardly effect at all, and some they set on entirely different paths. But none of these is the "right" or "one" universe. All of them are equally valid. And I'm guessing lots of them are nearly exactly the same (the ones where people get shot immediately upon getting sent back in time). And some, like timeline three, are wildly different to the others.

One of them may even be a world without shrimp.

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