Our future hinges a lot on how our present is, and that’s why it is ascribed a lot of importance. But what if we already know our future? In that case, does it annul our present, or make it any less significant? Or does it make us overtly protective of our present, shielding it at all cost – even at the cost of obliterating our future self? Looper presents one such strange scenario – the battle between the two selves, where one is wizened, insightful owing to have lived a longer life, while the other is more brash, less far sighted, and in general, callow. The set up is quite inventive. And a refreshing change from most of the other overdone, abashedly imaginative futuristic movies where the only thing going for the movie, and the only thing the makers were interested in exploring was world building.
The year’s 2044, the place, Kansas. Through Joe’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) voice-over we are informed that in future a tracking technology has made it almost impossible to get rid of dead bodies in clandestine fashion. So to get rid of their targets, mob sends them back in time to be assassinated by Loopers (assassins). Joe is one such looper. He callously disposes of agents, day in and out, till one day he has to confront his own future self. The technical term for such an event is ‘closing the loop’. He knows what it means. He intends to kill the old Joe and then abscond. As expected, the showdown between Joe and his future self doesn’t go down too well. The old Joe manages to evade the attack, and they both later meet at a diner. The scene nicely juxtaposes and delineates the relationship between the present and the future. The present is indifferent about the future mainly because of the things it hasn’t seen, and the future on contrary is frenetic, even scared, because of the things it has not only seen, but also experienced and lived.
What ensues after that is a cat-mouse chase that’s reminiscent of myriad quintessential action movies. We learn that old Joe wants to kill the mafia lynchpin of future who orchestrated his wife’s death. And that would amount to killing a ten year old in the present world. The extent some people at times can go to smoothen their fractured present is either discomfiting or valiant depending on whose side are you on. In that case, Looper effectively comments on how our actions are more dependent on the times we live in than who we really are. Here, contrary to most time-travel movies, more than the world changing around the central character, he has himself changed.
But after this promising set up, the movie veers into a territory that a lot of action movies are prone to – being monotonic and uni-dimensional. There’s only so much you can do with a cat-mouse chase that has not been done before. Rian introduces some characters here, but given that he is dealing with such a short time frame, the relationship between them seems synthetic and forced. Also, this fixation with tying a male character and a female character on screen, either sexually or romantically is a little jarring. More so, because it doesn’t ring true here. It only makes the movie superfluously melodramatic. And Rian indulges in such mediocre flourishes a plenty.
And moments before the movie’s climax, you can’t help wonder – is this too one of those movies that has an interesting facade but mediocre crux? And then there’s the movie’s climax. It would be foolishly obvious to say it can easily make or break a movie, because so few movies get it right. And it could easily be the difference among forgetful, good, and great movies. Rian Johnson handles the climax quite adeptly here. Because in this little scene different elements of the movie circle together quite satisfyingly. Rian Johnson seems to ask us a rather sagacious question: can our past and present make eye contact with each other and be that meeting devoid of lingering feeling of sadness, remorse or anger? Few people would have the audacity and willingness to face such a scenario.