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An Intriguing Twist on Time Travel: Looper, Film Review

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Looper: A Return to Smart and Inventive Science Fiction

Looper: Movie Review

Joseph Gordon Levitt in Looper (Rian Johnson, 2012)In the past few years cinema has taken a turn into surrealism by fusing science fiction movies with action movies. The result has been an indulgence in mind games that leave the audience begging for a clear answer and/or simply frustrated with the director’s creative liberties. There was Inception, which relied on facets of the subconscious in order to illustrate a harrowing reality in which anything was possible, leading more into fantasy than intelligent or believable plot lines. Movies like this break down the fourth wall, attempting to shatter our preconceived notions of reality, leaving them at risk for being pretentious. But Looper travelled into the realm of futuristic technology with a little bit more caution, and thus created an artful portrayal of time travel, which was as credible as a science fiction movie can be.

Looper in an interesting symbiosis of gritty realism and nightmarish fatalism. Directed and written by Rian Johnson, the tale involves a character named Joe who is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a looper. Thirty years from when the movie takes place, time travel has been invented, leading to the mob’s use of it to send people it wants gone back into the past to be assassinated. Unable to do it in the future due to the law’s precociousness in tracking down crime, it is the job of Loopers to kill them and hide their bodies. The only thing is that Loopers are required to agree to their own death after thirty years of service because by then their service will be obsolete.

The movie does little to glorify the mob of which Joe is a part of. They are equipped with guns that make it impossible to miss from close range, but very difficult to hit from farther than fifteen feet out. The guns are big and dumb looking, not slick, and the job of the Loopers is not very glorious either. They simply wait in a spot for the target to be sent back through time at a specific time. Joe’s designated spot is in a cornfield where there is a tarp set up in front of which Joe stands with his gun, looking bored in anticipation for the target to appear for assassination. The tarp shakes in the wind, creating the only noise in the shot, creating an empty space in which something terrible is about to happen. The effect is spooky for us and becomes spooky for Joe when his older self shows up, unmasked and looking Joe in the face, played by Bruce Willis. This is when things get interesting as the time travel complex begins to have problems. Bruce Willis has returned to the past to kill a child who will become the “Rain Man”, head mob boss of the future who will kill Joe’s wife. But younger Joe does not care, wants to kill his older self, and have a chance to create his own future.

When Joe’s older self escapes, he watches over all of the younger Joe’s moves and has a cynical eye over his actions. The woman who will take him in is one who saves him, but Joe does not want to be saved, is perfectly fine with himself as he is, as would make sense. We get to see fate and free will fight each other face to face, and watch as young Joe attempts to protect his own future by eliminating the ironically based threat to it: his better self.

The soundtrack for the movie has an interesting story in itself. Instead of relying on traditional epic theme songs such as are used in Star Wars or other popular cultish science fiction movies, the kind that are grandiose and overwhelmingly orchestral, Nathan Johnson decided to concoct a natural blend of noises for the movie’s score. He did so by walking around New Orleans for a month, and tuning his ears into the noises that the city made, and figuring out how they could be recorded and used as instruments. This gives the soundtrack to the movie a very unique sound, one that is composed of imperfect noise, providing the film with a realistic and rugged edge.

The most intriguing part of this movie is the moral dilemma that it presents. Lives are at stake in the battle for creating a better future, a child must be killed in order to prevent him from becoming a mob boss, challenging our notions of what is ethical and unethical murder. The ending makes the whole picture worth watching, and the dynamics between a present and future self create a vivid picture of how one can change over time, and can’t be forced into that change instantly, or else also alter that future person as a result, making the system imperfect and mind boggling.

Ezra Prior is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.

Short URL: http://thefreegeorge.com/thefreegeorge/?p=17847

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