Review of Looper, Directed by Rian Johnson
By KENDRICK KUO
A bit slow in coming, but I finally had the opportunity to watch Looper on a recent flight and came away with some different thoughts than Coyle and Alexis Neal, who reviewed this film here and here. They viewed the film as anchored in unconditional love as a transformative force. I also differed from Christian Hamaker, who ranked it as his second favorite film of 2012. I was not a big fan and found the story uninteresting.
You can find a good summary of the film in Alexis’s review, so I won’t belabor our readers. I would recommend you read her review first before reading this one. In short, Current Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), believes, along with Sid’s mother, that unconditional love will avert Sid’s trajectory toward becoming a future all-powerful mob boss. He saves Sid by killing himself and therefore killing Future Joe (Bruce Willis), who is bent on vengeance against Sid.
The most chilling parts of the film are when Future Joe hunts down 4 year olds that could potentially be the Rain Maker. Looper never digs into the question of the morality of indictment based on future, uncommitted crimes, though the film is rife with it. It would be interesting to pit Looper against Minority Report, where the future is not fixed and can be changed by human decision. In some ways, Looper comes to the same conclusion, but circumstances must change as well. In the case of Looper, his mother had to live and teach him to be good through her unconditional love.
Looper failed to bring this question to the fore, even though it was a steady current throughout. But not only that, I felt like the idea of unconditional love only came out near the end, and even then, was not fleshed out incredibly well. On both counts, therefore, Looper was a let down for me. It seemed to be too shallow for the themes and questions it evoked.
I appreciate science fiction because it allows us to isolate profound variables by restructuring the world around them and seeing how they act. Instead of fulfilling this function, Looper, for me, was purely an action flick with semi-memorable characters and a tip of the hat to the big questions.
This is not to say that I don’t agree with Coyle’s take on property or Alexis’s rebuttal of Looper’s portrayal of transformative love, but I saw these themes as secondary to the moral question of preventative execution. Nevertheless, all these themes were sidelined and understated, which may appeal to some viewers, but was a disappointment for me.