“It is the big choices we make that set our direction. It is the smallest choices we make that get is to our destination.” – Dr. Shad Helmstetter
On the surface it looks like an action film based on the concept of time-travel. But as we explore further, it has more to it. I can’t say whether it is good or bad.
(The article does not contain a synopsis of the film. Please read it here or elsewhere. And then enjoy reading!)
Time Travel in Looper:
Time Travel is a very complicated subject when put to celluloid. It never answers all of your questions and creates paradoxes. By the end of the film when the credits start rolling, you always have to interpret what you saw on screen. That makes it really difficult for the makers of the film to make something palatable for the audience. We have seen films which are fairly easy to understand (Back to the Future Trilogy, The Terminator) and we have also seen complicated subjects in Cloud Atlas. (Cloud Atlas is Time Travel, kind of…) Looper has some really different theories about time travel.
Massive spoilers are ahead.
The movie has a linear approach to the repercussions of time travel. We experience stuff as the characters experience it. Everything is kind of being created and fused in terms of the timeline in the present moment. Nothing has happened till it has actually happened. The makers have made an excellent explanation of how time travel affects the future self by torturing Seth (Paul Dano). Seth lets his future self run away instead of killing him. So his boss finds Young Seth and etches the location on his hand. The location then appears as a scar on Old Seth’s hand. While he struggles to get there, he keeps losing his fingers and eventually loses his legs. His limbs disappear. It implies that Young Seth is being tortured and his body is getting disintegrated piece by piece. Old Seth reaches the spot where Kid Blue (Noah Segan) kills him.
Similarly, Young Joe etches on his hand to give a message to Old Joe. When Young Joe gets shot, the bullet wound appears on Old Joe’s shoulder. Old Joe also forms new memories as per what Young Joe experiences. The only problem in the film according to this theory is that Old Joe disappears rather than dying in the last scene when Young Joe kills himself. When Young Seth loses his legs, Old Seth still exists and continues living in a linear timeline although it would’ve been impossible to get where he is shown in the film without his legs. So that implies that what happens to your younger self will appear instantaneously to you. In that sense Old Joe should fall down or turn into ashes when Young Joe dies.
In the Terminator series, we have multiple overlapping timelines. Every change creates a complete divergent timeline. In Looper, we have a similar situation, but everything loops back into into a single point in the same single timeline.
Metaphors and other cool stuff:
1. Blunderbuss vs magnum
As the makers have made it pretty obvious in the film poster, the Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sports a Blunderbuss shotgun and the Old Joe (Bruce Willis) has a magnum. In the film, the characters explain the specific role of these two different guns. Blunderbuss is a short range weapon but it is unmissable. At the same time Magnum has greater accuracy and can cover a long distance. Maybe that is what the decisions of our lead characters signify. Young Joe always thinks about his short term gains while Old Joe thinks on a long term basis. In the end, Young Joe kills himself with a blunderbuss. He goes with his gut feeling and finds a way of making a long term impact with a short range weapon.
2. The Stubborn Stump
When Young Joe meets Sara (Emily Blunt), she is trying to get rid of a huge tree stump in her field with an axe. Young Joe tells her that using an axe might not be the quickest way of getting the results. Sara doesn’t respond to this suggestion. She continues to break the stump using her axe. She chips off little pieces every time she strikes. This may not be the most efficient way of doing the thing but Sara believes that she needs to be patient. In the narrative of the film, we see that Sara’s son Cid doesn’t believe that Sara is his mother as he was raised by Sara’s sister after Sara abandoned him. This is the stubborn idea in Cid’s head which Sara needs to clear and she needs to be very patient about it. This element makes the movie about good parenting and how it can change the world.