Sunday, October 21, 2012
Looper the movie is an argument between the two Joes, the one played by a heavily made-up Gordon-Levitt in the “present” and the older Joe (Bruce Willis) sent back to die from 30 years in the future. Future Joe is fighting for a life he has already lived; in a montage we learn that Joe will blow his bankroll and return to crime before having his life changed by a woman (Summer Qing). The only way to prevent Joe from living the same life and then dying is for Future Joe to kill the present version of the Rainmaker, the crime boss who is closing all the loops. Got it? It’s to Rian Johnson’s credit that the movie is never unclear, but after a strong beginning Looper runs out of gas because Johnson sets up an impossible choice between trying to cling to the past and giving up agency over a life that one still has a chance to change. In the film’s present the Rainmaker is a little boy named Cid (Pierce Gagnon), but before finding him Future Joe must first work through a list of suspects based on data he has obtained before coming back. The cavalier placing of children in jeopardy sets Future Joe up as the villain, but Willis’s character is the one with something at stake. Gordon-Levitt’s Joe doesn’t have an idea in his head beyond killing the older version of himself, there’s never any real conception of what his life might be beyond his life as a Looper (besides, we’ve already seen what happens). It’s essential to Johnson’s construction of the film that Joe was an orphan drafted into criminal life as a child, otherwise he’d have to explain his choices. The present moment is all that counts for Joe; we’re supposed to be moved by his defense of Cid and his mother (Emily Blunt), but Joe’s behavior is selfish. Killing Future Joe would only ensure the same events reoccurring.
I wonder if someone has already made one of those deconstructionist YouTube videos full of questions about Looper. Why does the bulk of the movie take place on a farm? The only farm work Blunt’s character does is use an axe on a stump. Hasn’t Future Joe already changed history by surviving so long in the past? What does Jeff Daniels’ character do about the present version of himself? There are pleasures to be had, it has been a long time since I’ve seen Willis look this interested in what he was doing and Emily Blunt gives a fiercely stripped down performance as a woman trying to figure out an unexpected life day-by-day. But the rules Johnson sets up for his world smother the movie; Looper is like adding a number and the negative of the same quantity together , the result has an elegant shape but leaves an empty feeling.