Saturday, November 3, 2012


Time travel is tricky. Not the mechanics; those are impossible. The logic. This was best expressed in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me":

"Oh, no, I've gone cross-eyed."

And so we have Looper, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt is some kind of organized crime thug whose job is killing people sent back from the future for execution. When the mob wants to end the contract, they send the looper back for his younger self to kill, "closing the loop". Hence the title.

On the plus side, the older soon-to-be-dead guy comes back with a lotta gold strapped to his back, and the looper gets to live out the next thirty years, spending the gold and doin' whatever.

In the case of Gordon-Levitt, he turns into Bruce Willis in 30 years. This is preposterous because we know what Willis looked like 30 years and it's nothing like JGL. JGL wears a prosthetic chin and nose in this which is kinda cool, except we do know what JGL looks like now, and it's not like what he looks like in this movie.

And that's just one of many, many preposterous things in this film. For example, the whole business of sending people to the past to be executed, then using people to kill their older selves (an idea fraught with peril which would seem to have no value compared to the risk), and then the whole idea that killing yourself leads to your retirement, which 30 years later leads to the mob killing you.

I mean, what possible purpose could there be to killing loopers thirty years after they stopped working for you? They could pretty much do whatever damage they wanted in that time, so why are you antagonizing them?

The most surprising thing, though, is that the movie works. It's very '70s sci-fi, dystopic with JGL and Willis as anti-heroes—and they are dark, with some quality action and a lively script that's not overly predictable. Writer/director Rian Johnson, who directed one of my favorite films of 2009, The Brothers Bloom, is comfortable in his mildly futuristic, highly dystopic world.

JGL eerily mimics Willis' iconic facial expressions and acting style, which is cool. Willis is dark and disturbed and driven and desperate and some other d-words, to boot. The Americaphobic Emily Blunt is really good, as usual. Paul Dano (Being Flynn) has a critical, sorta weaselly role. Piper Perabo (The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) plays a hooker/stripper with a heart of aluminum. Young Pierce Gagnon is believable as a very perceptive five(ish)-year-old.

Jeff Daniels rounds out the cast as the evil superboss from the future. He's got a beard in this, so you know he's bad. Or a college professor.

It's fun, but it is dark, cynical—though not nihilistic—and parts are definitely unpleasant. The world is unpleasant, and there are some very unpleasant moments. There's not much heroism in "Joe", the character played by both Willis and Gordon-Leavitt, which is critical to the story but probably a deal killer for some of our more sensitive readers.

The Boy liked it a lot, as did the Flower.


  1. OT: I saw your comment at Ace's about leveraging our skills to change the narrative, and I couldn't find another way to contact you. I've been interested for a while in designing a computer game set in early-1800s America where you would start a bank. Teaches history, free market habits, and what banks are really like, but all in passing; it would have to be fun. Could be like those omnipresent flash games where you run a coffee shop, or something more elaborate.

    I have other ideas too, if you don't like that one; if you're game, email me at


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