I was finally able to watch Looper last night when all of my girls (My wife and twin girls Abigail and Evelyn) went to sleep. I have been anticipating this movie for some time now based primarily on its intriguing premise. Seriously, what could be more intriguing than hitmen hired to kill their marks transported from the future with the main character, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, faced with killing Bruce Willis who happens to be himself 30 years from the future…you got all of that, right? Then, surprisingly enough, the movie received high ratings from the critics (overall Metascore of 84), which is not an easy thing to do with a Sci-Fi Thriller.
Needless to say I was not disappointed with the story, and what’s more, I found myself pleased with the overall message. But before I give an endorsement of this movie, caution must be given for the many elements of gratuitous violence and some explicit (and as always senseless) scenes of nudity. Check out a full parental overview here before watching.
The story takes place in 2044 where hitmen, called “Loopers”, are hired to kill men who are sent back from the future. Time travel is not yet invented by 2044, but thirty years later it is illegal, which naturally becomes an effective tool for the mob to dispatch their enemies. The money paid to the Loopers come in bars of silver attached to the man he is to kill. Loopers have these lucrative contracts until the mob in the future decides to “close the loop” by having the Looper kill himself from the future. The Looper then gets a set of gold bars and thirty years to enjoy them.
The main character is a man named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is faced with the task of closing his loop but fails to do so when he sees himself from the future. The future Joe (Bruce Willis) chooses to come back from the future in order to stop the mad man, The Rainmaker, responsible for the death of his wife. Young Joe needs to kill Old Joe in order to get his life back, but Old Joe is trying to change things to allow Young Joe live a good life and protect his future wife.
Though it sounds pretty complicated (and it is), director Rian Johnson does a fantastic job navigating the story through the logical obstacles of time travel and its implications. Bruce Willis is natural in this type of character, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt spent a little under three hours a day in make-up to convincingly look like a younger Willis. Emily Blunt was a bit surprising casted as Sara, but pulled off an American Mid-Westerner quite nicely. Looper is a solid, clever Science Fiction Thriller that makes use of the future and time travel to explore some of the depths of humanity.
Young Joe verses Old Joe
One of the best scenes of the movie is when Young Joe and Old Joe sit across from each at a diner. Surprisingly there is very little interaction between the two as Young Joe spends a significant amount of time with Sara (Emily Blunt) and her boy, while Old Joe searches for the boy who will eventually become The Rainmaker in the future. You can see the collision coming.
At first I thought it was going to be one of those stories where the future guy takes the opportunity to his younger self all the ways he went wrong and how to clean up his act. It certainly started out that way as Young Joe is self-absorbed, only looking out for his best interests at the sake of everyone else. Old Joe even takes some much needed jabs at the selfish, narcissistic attitude of his younger self.
What is striking is how the rest of the story plays out completely different than I had anticipated.
Old Joe turns out to be just as selfish as he once was and even more dangerous than his younger version. Driven by anger, revenge, and entitlement, Old Joe takes many lives in order to give the Young Joe a good life. It is still all about him even if it is in the name of his wife. Meanwhile, the Young Joe comes to have affections for both Sara and her child, Cid. He develops a concern for others and less of a concern for himself.
Young Joe finally realizes that it is his future self, Old Joe, is the cause of Cid becoming the Rainmaker, by killing Sara, his mom. It is one big cycle of revenge that Young Joe finally stops by killing himself, and thus destroying his future self as well. It was this act of sacrifice, which so distanced himself from who he was to become 30 years later, that made the movie worth watching to the end.
There were so many elements of choice, regret, sacrifice, and ethics that made this movie much deeper than its trailer would have suggested. One of the most intriguing aspects of the story is Sara and her son, Cid. Cid has incredible powers that are extremely dangerous, especially when he gets angry. Sara is patient and loves on him in the hopes that he can control his powers and use them for good. This is the hope displayed at the end of the movie, where Young Joe realizes what Cid will be. But instead of killing him, like the Old Joe was attempting to do, Young Joe believes that Sara can give him the proper foundation for him to grow up as a good man. It is amazing what the power of love, encouragement, and security can do for children. And even if there was little hope for Cid to grow up good, Young Joe made an ethical decision not to kill in this situation. It would have been easy to kill, for his whole life had been nothing but that. However, hope and love prevailed and the Young Joe surpassed the Old Joe in goodness and character by his selflessness.
Killing the Old Man
It is easy to see the connection between this story and the Biblical teaching of sanctification. Once a person believes in Jesus Christ his old self, which is enslaved to sin, dies and the new self is then constantly renewed by the Spirit, becoming more and more like Jesus. However, as every Christian knows, the relic of the Old Man is still there, tempting, deceiving, and enslaving. The Apostle Paul teaches us that putting off the Old Man and putting on the New Man as an important part of the life of the Christian. (Colossians 3) And though sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit, each individual has choices to make, which will constantly affect what kind of person he or she will be.
Looper gives many examples of people making decisions and seeing how that affects not only themselves but all those around them. A mother’s care for a child, an incredible act of sacrifice for someone’s wellbeing, or even the selfish striving after one’s own interests has a monumental impact. In many small but not insignificant ways this movie was deeply convicting. Being a father I was deeply moved by the impact Sara’s love had on Cid. It reminded me the importance of such love and care for children. Seeing Old Joe’s insane pursuit of revenge and protecting what’s his reminded me of my own vain, selfish pursuit for what’s mine and its devastating results. Then seeing Young Joe, a person who knew only to kill, could make the greatest act of giving life by giving up his own.
It reminded me that there is hope for everyone, including me. And the LORD has given me a responsibility in that one decision at a time.