When I first saw the trailer for Looper, my immediate thought was “Who the f*** is that?!” I had absolutely no clue that it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt until I was reading one of my favorite celebrity gossip blogs, and they said it was him. As a naturally skeptical person, I IMDBed the movie and YouTubed the trailer because I still couldn’t believe that it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt underneath the creepy prosthetics and that raspy, action hero voice. But when I realized he was playing Bruce Willis in the past, I was kind of intrigued.
Then again, my intrigue might also have been because of the whole time-travel concept in this movie since that shit is always freaky. But I guess you’ll just have to see what I think about that…
Here’s how Sony describes the plot: “In the futuristic action thriller Looper, time-travel will be invented—but it will be illegal and only available on the black market. When the mob wants to get rid of someone, they will send their target 30 years into the past, where a “looper”—a hired gun, like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)—is waiting to mop up. Joe is getting rich and life is good…until the day the mob decides to “close the loop,” sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.”
As creepy as it was to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt in prosthetics, I have to say his acting in this movie was pretty great. Since he was playing a younger version of Bruce Willis’ character, he had to not only look like Bruce Willis, but he also had to sound like him and act like him. Obviously, the costume and makeup people took control over making him look like Bruce Willis, but he, himself, had to learn Bruce Willis’ raspy vocal patterns as well as his facial expressions (such as the eyebrow raises and squints). And Joseph Gordon-Levitt mimicked them extremely well. In fact, the scene when they’re sitting down at the diner in Kansas after Bruce Willis’ Joe escaped Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe is almost comical because it’s like watching two Bruce Willises…or is that Bruce Willi?
Also, I really liked the message of this movie, which is that all of the things that happen in the future are consequences of decisions made in the present. The whole reason the loopers existed was because present Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) didn’t kill future Joe (Bruce Willis), who ended up killing Sara (Emily Blunt), leaving her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon) to grow up without a mom and never learn how to control his telekinesis, which made him become “The Rain Maker,” the evil mob boss who hired the loopers to do his killing in the future. After seeing this cyclical nature of death, present Joe kills himself, making future Joe never exist, which saves Sara and Cid and means Cid doesn’t become “The Rain Maker.” While that might seem like a shitty ending, it does resolve this loop (which is probably the only loop actually closed in this movie, but more on that below…).
(Author’s Note: I’m apologizing ahead of time in case this criticism seems lengthy and/or dizzying. But, in my own defense, the only reason it will seem that way is because the movie’s writing was filled with so many gaping plot holes and unanswered questions that I, myself, am still baffled).
My biggest criticism of this movie is that nothing—and I mean nothing—was ever explained to the audience. You know how the setting and backstory are usually explained (or shown) thoroughly in good books and movies? Well, that didn’t happen with Looper. Now, somebody is probably arguing, “But this is an action thriller. There doesn’t need to be a good plot beyond guns, explosions, and fight scenes.” And you’re right, in a sense, because most action thrillers have the depth of a puddle. However, most action thrillers give you enough information about the setting and backstory that you can sit back, shut up, and watch the movie.
As I said, that didn’t happen with Looper. Why is this a problem? Well, when the audience isn’t given enough information about the setting or backstory of a movie, then it becomes extremely difficult for the audience to enjoy the movie for what it is because they’re constantly trying to make sense of the questions that aren’t being answered by the very movie that brought them up in the first place.
When a movie like Looper brings up difficult questions and opens up some serious plot holes because they wanted to construct a world beyond the current world, they’d better damn well close their own loops (Oh ho! It’s funny because that’s what the loopers are instructed to do!). All the audience was given for this movie’s setting and backstory was a quick narration about how time-travel wasn’t invented until 30 years after the year 2044 (when the movie takes place), that it’s illegal to time-travel, that a mob man known as “The Rain Maker” uses it in the future to kill people he doesn’t like, and that loopers are the people in the past (the movie’s present) who kill the people sent back from the future. That alone is a lot of shit to process. And guess what? They never explain why any of this happens or how any of it physically works.
I gave myself a headache just thinking about the fact that, when a looper kills his future self, it technically means there’s an infinite loop of him aging and getting killed by his younger self, who then ages and gets killed by his younger self…well, you get the point. But that wasn’t the shit the writers forgot to explain.
Here were the things they didn’t explain. This movie is set in the U.S. in 2044, but all we see is a poverty-stricken, futuristic city run by criminals. How did that happen?! The characters keep mentioning the vagrants (homeless people looking for food) and showing the distinction between the upper-class mob men and the lower-class vagrants, but the movie never tells you how that happened. Did a war wipe out the economy, which led to the mob taking over the city? I don’t know because no one explained it!
Generally, when you have a movie distantly set in the future, you don’t really need to explain a lot of how the world got the way it did in the movie because, well, it’s almost too far to comprehend. But when you have a movie set 30 years from the current time, there needs to be a little explanation. I mean, for f***’s sake, even the shitty Total Recall remake explained how the world got the way it did, and it was set hundreds of years in the future (and it was shitty).
Next question. If this was set in 2044, why the hell were they driving cars from the 1990s and the early 2000s? You would think they’d have awesome new cars (like in I-Robot, which took place in 2035). Or at least they could’ve explained WHY they were driving those cars. Another thing about the cars (as my mechanically-inclined boyfriend pointed out), why, if they had solar panels and wires hooked up to the cars to suggest they were using alternative fuel sources, did the cars still start up with an internal combustion engine sound? Were the sound editors drunk?! It doesn’t take that much effort to remove that sound and insert a different sound in the film’s soundboard.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the telekinesis shit. Was there a nuclear blast or radiation exposure that mutated people into telekinetics? Again, I don’t know because it wasn’t explained. Now, here’s the big question that I can’t get over—how in the hell did the loopers get their time and destination information about the people from the future they were supposed to kill? This seems like an enormous plot hole to me.
Think about this way: In Back to the Future II, Doc left Marty McFly a letter in 1885 with specific instructions that it not be opened until 1955 by Marty. Marty only got the message because it was written in the past and held until the future. So…WTF, Looper? How does someone get a message from the future detailing where and when they should be waiting for a man to poof through time-travel onto a white sheet in the middle of nowhere? Sure, you could argue the people in the future would know where and when because it already happened; but how do they pass along the message to the past when no one ever appears via time-travel to say “Hey, go kill this guy here!”? I want answers, goddamnit!
I know someone is going to say, “Well, Inception was just as dizzying!” Yes, but Inception was dizzying because you were left with an ending that made you question whether or not everything that had happened in the movie was real. They at least explained the whole dream construction and how the dreams worked. Looper‘s screenwriters weren’t being coy and trying to make us think—they literally just got so caught up in the awesomeness of time-travel and looping that they couldn’t close their own story loops. And what’s even worse? NO ONE WILL NOTICE because this movie is so “unique” and “thrilling.” Ugh. I don’t want to live on this planet anymore…
Overall, while the general message of this movie and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as a younger Bruce Willis were good, I don’t think I can watch this movie again. Sure, it was something with a different concept than the normal action movie crap we’re forced to watch, but I can’t get over all of the unanswered questions and unexplained plot holes (Did anyone else feel this way?). When I see that many problems in a movie, it shows me that the writers, producers, and director were so hellbent on shoving this movie out into the theaters because it was “cool” rather than taking their time to craft an intelligent and thought-provoking movie. You know it’s bad when animated family films have more depth and well-written stories than movies made for adults.