Truly fine movies are hard to find, and great to discover. The occasion where one closes one’s eyes at a movie’s end and says to oneself, “Ah… there’s another favorite to add to the list,” is one that I cherish and yet rarely come upon. Even with there being as few good movies as there are, it is even rarer that one hits you in a truly direct and powerful way. For me, these occasions are precious moments in time to savor, and to forever hold dear as key evidence whenever I begin to question just what it is about movies that makes them such a worthwhile intellectual and creative pursuit. When I think of the last few years, I find that Up in the Air, An Education, (500) Days of Summer, The Social Network, True Grit, Midnight in Paris, Carnage, and The Iron Lady have all secured themselves firmly in my mind as definite examples of all that modern filmmakers are capable of achieving. The new movie Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, is destined to be one of them.
Looper is a science-fiction tale about the near future, which has ties to the distant future, where the world is dominated by an all-powerful “Rainmaker” – a destructive force of a man who reportedly took over all of humanity by himself. Also in the distant future, time travel exists and is controlled by the Mob, which uses it as a means to dispose of unwanted persons in an unflawed, clean way. They send these people back in time, to our near-future, where they are murdered by men called “loopers” – young men who work for the Mob and who dispose of the bodies afterwards. The catch is that these young men ultimately kill their future selves, who are sent back by the Mob so as to create a clean “loop”: upon killing their future selves (something they don’t know they’ve done until after they’ve committed the murder), they are given tons of gold and are sent off into the world to enjoy it as best they can, until they reach late middle-age and are captured and sent back, so that they are killed by their younger selves – thus, a clean loop.
Now, Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as one of these loopers, and when the time comes to kill his older self, the murder falls through, and his older self (Bruce Willis) escapes with the mission to seek out and murder the “Rainmaker” – who at this point is a mere child – before he can grow up to become the ruthless dictator that he is in the distant future.
Looper will be, for some, a complicated movie; for others, its science fiction pitfalls may make themselves apparent, if one chooses to search them out. But for an open-minded and attentive audience member, this movie will prove to be an unnervingly provocative and moving experience. Its focus shifts a handful times, beginning as a sci-fi thriller; turning into the character study of a lost young man; from there to a look at the contrasting points of view of a man’s younger self versus his older self; to a revenge plot; and finally to the necessity of a solid foundation in a person’s childhood, so that a given person may grow up to be a healthy, mature, and responsible adult. And it is the smoothness of the transitions between these varying points of focus that ultimately culminates in an uncommonly powerful ending, which calls out so desperately for the need to live life responsibly; the need for good, loving parents as the source of all basic human security; and to solve life’s problems through a selflessness regard for the future, rather than based upon the injustices of the past. Otherwise, this movie teaches us, if all of these needs go unacknowledged, life becomes one thankless, endless loop.
Looper is easily the best movie I have seen this year. It is truly the rarest of movie-going experiences that can make a person feel both stimulated and deeply satisfied, and my seeing Looper has proven to be one such experience. I sat in my seat as the credits began to roll, and a miraculous sense of contentment washed over me; my head was filled with the feeling that one might closest relate to a divine experience, so tremendous was the effect that this movie had on me. I cannot tell you how reassuring it is for someone like me – someone to whom the movies mean something far more than mere recreational diversions – to experience such an exceptional demonstration of cinematic understanding and talent. Go see this movie – it trumps nearly every other film I have seen within the last two years. Fantastic.