Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Looper Movie Review

A good time travel movie will really make you think about the implications of time travel, the dichotomy of paradoxes, and possibly even philosophical differences between determinism and free will. I think that since I began watching Doctor Who, I expect a certain level of mind-bending awesomeness as I try to understand the time line. Looper (2012) was a well written time travel story that gives you a mental exercise as you watch an action packed movie.
Set in the near future of 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a hit man for the mob that exists 30 years in the future. Time travel hasn’t been invented yet, but it will be within the next three decades. It will become illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they send their target 30 years into the past where a “looper” like Joe is waiting to mop up. The target has silver strapped to him as payment for the looper. Joe’s friend Seth (Paul Dano), another looper, is paranoid about the mob deciding to “close the loop;” the looper’s contract is ended by sending the looper’s future self back to be killed by the looper, along with a very large payment. Joe is getting rich and life is good. But something is wrong when Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) appears for assassination unhooded. Young Joe’s hesitation costs him a lot when Old Joe knocks him out and goes about his own agenda. The mob of 2044 lead by Abe (Jeff Daniels) begins hunting down Young Joe for not taking out his target. Young Joe hunts down his older self to finish the job and get the mob off his back. Old Joe goes about an elaborate man hunt of his own while trying to keep Young Joe alive so that Old Joe himself doesn’t disappear before his objective is accomplished.
Looper is a very intelligently written movie. Some time travel movies sidestep paradoxes in the interest of telling a story. That causes the story to not make a whole lot of sense. Rather than avoiding paradoxes, Looper embraces them! By the end of the movie there are several impossibilities piling up, but we get an astonishing and logical conclusion that it’s as if the paradoxes created by time travel never existed. As far as time travel stories goes, I’m sure that even Doctor Who would be satisfied with it.
There was a really neat scene that only time travel can create where both Old and Young Joe meet in a diner, sitting across from each other in a booth. Imagine sitting across the table from yourself with a 30-year age difference. The two converse, which could open up an endless conversation about the emotions and metaphysics of encountering yourself this way. But interestingly, the conversation is left very simple and down-to-earth. Professional hit men must not be particularly inclined toward philosophical debate.
The actors do a fantastic job. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis both play the same character with a 30 year difference. It’s evident that the two actors spent a lot of time together to refine the one character they play. Levitt managed to perfectly imitate Willis’s pursed lip smirking smile, and Willis captivates some of Levitt’s subtle mannerisms. There was also a stunning makeup and prosthetics job done on Levitt to make him physically resemble Willis even more. You can’t help but believe that Joseph Gordon-Levitt will inevitably become Bruce Willis one day.
Really the only negative things I can say about Looper stem from my own personal preferences. It’s got a pretty bleak and pessimistic view of people. There are mobs and gang violence, drug use, hookers, and plenty of profanity. Even the time travel aspect tends to favor a determinist philosophy. Toward the end it ebbs more towards a standard shoot-‘em-up action movie. But none of this is incorporated without reason. The movie is about a hit man working for the mob; such individuals aren’t known for their scruples and ethics. The mob environment isn’t conducive to peaceful negotiations or friendly verbal exchanges.
I can’t fault the movie for these things since they are meaningfully built into the plot and character development. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but it was so well written and directed that I have to say Looper was a good movie that succeeds on its own merits. It’s not going to appeal to most viewers who don’t enjoy violent action movies, but even if that is the case for you, I still recommend seeing it because it’s such a well written time travel movie. I’m glad I saw it, but I probably won’t go out of my way to see it again, let alone get a copy of it. If you enjoy violent action movies, you practically owe it to yourself to see Looper.

What is your favorite time travel movie? Comment below and tell me why!

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