Monday, October 1, 2012

Looper [2012]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Roger Ebert (3 1/2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

Looper (written and directed by Rian Johnson) is a characteristically dark but rather compelling science fiction movie that uses the concept of time travel to invite viewers to reflect on the consequences of actions (and of our actions).  As a Catholic reviewer, I do have warn readers here that the resolution of the story is legitimately unsettling and a fair question could be asked: "shouldn't there have been another way?"   To say more than this would result in giving too much away, but Catholic readers who do see the movie (especially of my age and older) would immediately understand why the film's resolution would pose some problems.

But let's to the story ... Sometime around 2044 time-travel was invented.  However, it was immediately declared illegal presumably because of its sinister possibilities.  But as is often the case, outlawing something only puts that something into the hands of outlaws.  So, the mafia of the future (circa 2074) finds a way to use this technology to dispose of people to get rid of.

The mafia does so by sending the people it wants eliminated thirty years into the past to a specific location at a specific time, where a hit man (called a "Looper") is waiting for the victim and quickly dispatches him.  Indeed so efficient is the process that the well prepared Looper comes to the site with a a time piece, a gun and a fairly large sheet of canvas laid out at exactly the location (in a cornfield) where the victim would materialize.  After shooting and killing the victim, the Looper would simply wrap the victim up in the canvas sheet throw the wrapped-up body into his truck and take them to an incinerator for complete disposal. 

Occasionally, the mafia would send the Looper back 30 years in time to be eliminated by his younger self.  This was called "closing the loop."  The young Loopers would then realize that they have exactly 30 years to live.  What happens if the younger self does not kill the older self?  Well that's what the movie is about.

Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Lewitt) is a Looper living in 2044.  How does he feel about his job?  We don't really know.  In a voice-over near the beginning of the film we hear from Joe that "Loopers don't generally think things through."  On the other hand, Joe does seem to have plans.  After going out to his appointed cornfield at the appointed time, immediately shooting the victim who materializes before him, wrapping him up in the tarp which he had meticulously placed over the exact site where the victim materializes, and throwing the body wrapped in the tarp into the back of his pickup truck, he goes to a diner, where he orders a meal and practices his French.  Apparently shooting people materializing in his present from the future is not all that he aspires for...

After getting a sense of Joe's routine, we the viewers are informed that apparently a new mafia boss in the future, known simply as "The Rain Maker," is apparently on a vendetta against the Loopers.  So suddenly a lot of them are finding their older selves being sent back to Joe's present to be expired.  Now some of the Loopers don't seem to care (because they feel assured of 30 years of more life).   A friend of Joe's, also a Looper, named Seth (played by Paul Dano) gets freaked out by the implication of killing his own older self and finds he can't do it.  However, the mafia won't tolerate "loose ends" and so Seth and his older self (played by Frank Brennan) end really, really badly that only reconciliation of time travel paradoxes could adequately portray (Yes, Parents take note ... Seth's and his older self's ends are quite gruesome...).

Still shaken by the death of his friend, Joe finds his own self materialize at the appointed place and time before him, and is unable to shoot him either.  It's not so much that he wasn't willing to do so it, but that the Older Joe (played by Bruce Willis) materializes ready to quickly defend himself.  (Remember that Joe "thought things through" a bit more than the other Loopers....)   And the Old Joe came back to 2044 with a mission.  He was going to find and kill that mafia "Rain Maker" as a boy so that he doesn't grow-up to harm either him or Joe's wife in the future, named Summer Qing (played by Qing Xu).

Old Joe comes back knowing that "The Rainmaker" was born in a specific hospital on a certain day.  It had been 10 years since the birth of the child in question and three boys had been born in that hospital on that day.  However with help of his wife Joe had done his research.  He came back to 2044 knowing where each of those three 10 year old boys were living.  And he came back to kill them all believing that this would change both his destiny and that of his wife.  But to save himself and his wife, the Older Joe would have to kill three little boys.  And of course those three boys have mothers who love them.

This then is the paradox that the younger Joe faces, does he help his older self save himself and his wife (who the younger Joe had not yet even met) or does he help a single mother named Sara (played by Emily Blunt) protect her son?   

He finds a solution.  Again, I did find it problematic and I suspect that many people would find it problematic as well.  Still it does make you think.  What would you do? 

Parents, this film is an appropriately R-rated movie for its violence and occasional nudity / hooker sexuality.  One can also wonder why the future is so often portrayed in such adark way where the men are generally assassins and the women generally hookers.  In any case, though the film does "make you think" it's definitely not "for the little ones."

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