I’m a sucker for time travel stories. Ever since I read Jack Finney’s Time and Again, I’ve been hooked. So when I read that a time travel movie called Loopers would be out at the end of September, I marked it on my calendar as a must see.
Here’s the premise: It’s the middle of the twenty-first century. Time travel hasn’t been invented yet. But thirty years in the future, it hasn’t only been invented, it’s illegal and only the mob has use of it. So when they want to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun waits to perform the execution and get rid of the body. The victim usually has a supply of silver bars strapped to his back, payment for the kill.
Joseph Gordon Levitt plays the younger Bruce Willis, Joe, one of these executioners. I remember him from Inception, another movie that appealed to my enjoyment of the weird and the strange. Bruce Willis, of course, needs no introduction and he’s terrific in the role as Old Joe.
The paradox that most time travel pundits tell you can’t happen in a story happens here and is brilliantly executed: Old Self (Bruce) meets Young Self (Joseph). The initial confrontation is one of the most riveting scenes in the movie and takes place in what looks like an updated version of the old hamburger joint down the road. Old Self remembers what happens and has happened on various time lines to Young Self. But as he explains, when certain choices are made, those memories for him either become foggy or shockingly clear, depending on what the choice is.
Throughout the first half of the movie, there are subtle references to TK mutants – telekinetic individuals whose talents don’t seem to extend much beyond levitating coins. (But hey, I’d like to be able to levitate a spot of dust!) Then a woman enters the picture, a young woman and her son who live on a farm. I won’t give any spoilers here, but this part of the movie feels like another movie altogether until the dots are connected.
Yes, there are plot flaws in the movie. But they don’t occur to you until you’ve left the theater, and they are similar to the flaws in Inception. In any story that involves travel through dreams (Inception) or travel through time (Loopers), or in any story for that matter, that involves something other than consensus reality, the rules have to be established. The writer has to spell out what can and can’t be done within a particular reality or world.
James Cameron does this superbly in Avatar; Ridley Scott excels at this in Blade Runner and Alien; Spielberg pegs it in E.T. The flaw with Loopers, I think, is that the script tries to explain too much about how different choices create different timelines, different probabilities.
In some ways, this is what happens when you go to a psychic for a reading. Assuming the person actually has psi abilities, there’s an element of interpretation for the psychic in that he or she must be able to translate images, impressions, visions, for the client, in a way that makes sense. In the context of life, these interps can be perplexing.
We exercise our free will, we make choices, and those choices have very real repercussions in terms of what we experience, of who we are and who we become. And based on that, our decisions are often moments of epiphany. And the ultimate decision in this movie is a shocker I didn’t see coming. This movie will be one I watch again.