Looper is a Science Fiction film directed by Rian Johnson, in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a man named Joseph Simmons, and Bruce Willis plays the same man named Joe. Yeah, it's that type of a film.The film takes place in the not-too-distant future, at a point in time thirty years before the invention of time travel. Though it is illegal to use time travel, a flourishing black market has made the technology available to high-profile criminal organizations who have put it to practical use. Because it is nearly impossible to discreetly dispose of a body in the future (due to advanced tracking and tagging technologies), the criminals send the target back in time where an assassin (called a "Looper") kills and disposes of the victim before he technically ever existed.Joe is one such "Looper", and like all Loopers he has accepted the job knowing that some day, when his employers in the future wish to terminate his contract, his future self will be sent back in time to be killed at his hands, a process known as "closing the loop". The problem is that when his future self does appear, Joe hesitates and is subdued by Older Joe, who has his own agenda in the past and will not let anyone stand in his way.The film, which also stars Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, and Emily Blunt, is the third from writer/director Rian Johnson, of Brick and The Brothers Bloom. It's also Johnson's third collaboration with Levitt. Watch the trailer here.
This film provides examples of:
Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: The conversation in the Diner between Young Joe and Old Joe happens after Young Joe's apartment is raided and right before Old Joe's escape when the Gat Men show up.
Bruce Willis plays a character who travels back in time and at the end of the movie, dies in front of his younger self.
Bruce Willis' outfit at the end of this film is identical to his outfit at the end of Pulp Fiction. In addition, both films feature Willis' character returning to his apartment and just missing the hitmen waiting for him.
In addition, when robbing a store for medical supplies he finally gets the aspirin he was asking for throughout Die Hard With A Vengeance.
Garret Dillahunt plays Jesse, a man who works for an organization that kills people who come from the future. In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, he plays Cromartie, a character who goes back in time to kill people. Both characters are killed by a child that will supposedly be important in the future.
Affably Evil: Abe just wants to have nice talks with people until they give him what he wants... or until he gets fed up and smashes their hands with a ball-peen hammer.
In the timeline where Joe successfully closes his loop, he takes all of his money and goes to China, but within a decade, winds up wasting it all on partying and drugs. What little there's left becomes worthless, thanks to more and more loopers getting paid in more and more silver, driving down the value.
Based on Young Joe's egging, Seth's hoverbike cost a large chunk of money and he never managed to get it running before his death.
Anti-Hero: Young Joe is a Nominal Hero at the start of the movie. He's (mostly) self-centered, has no qualms executing people for the mob, and shows few signs of heroism throughout most of the film. He develops more into an Unscrupulous Hero when Cid becomes something of a Morality Pet for him in the third act.
Artistic License - Economics: Part of, which is to say only, appeal of storing your wealth in gold and silver is the fact they it don't spoil and can't be created arbitrarily. That means the price is usually going to be pretty stable over long periods of time (though in the short term the price can still swing wildly due to speculation). If gold and silver could just be created more or less out of thin air through time travel, that pretty much defeats the purpose... Except that paying the loopers in gold and silver means that in the future those materials are Not Rare Over There and the future criminals are thus paying for corpse disposal with Worthless Yellow Rocks. It's cheap in the future, valuable to the loopers, and sending it into the past makes it rare again, meaning that everyone's happy... except the corpses, of course.
It could also be seen as inverting the trope, with no artistic license. The explanation? The amount going back to the past is likely minuscule, and wouldn't have any effect on a planet producing upwards of 2.7 million kilograms of gold a year. The value for the future in creating the loopers isn't cheap gold and silver, but in removing bodies without trace. Metal is just the best payment system.
Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Most Loopers (Young Joe included) seem to be riding on a 20th Century nostalgia fad with their neckties and other "past" fashions. And if the world of 2074 is any indication, it apparently stuck with everyone.
Awesome, but Impractical: As noted by Seth, the "Blunderbusses" are very powerful and guarantee a kill withing fifteen yards - good for committing executions where the target's delivered near point-blank - but can't hit anything beyond that.
Bad Future: The "present" of 2044 is strongly implied to have rampant poverty, with organized crime being one of the main employers; the "future" of 2074 seems to be more pleasant (in China, at least), but society is still at the mercy of a fearsome criminal and terrorist mastermind.
Bad Guy Bar: Abe owns a club frequented by all the Loopers and Gat Men.
Big Bad: Abe, to an extent. Until Old Joe upstages him.
Bigger Bad: The Rainmaker, the Big Bad of the near-future whose reign of terror-to come colors the actions of everyone else in the film.
Birth/Death Juxtaposition: A rather twisted example - after Old Joe kills one of the children who he thinks could be the Rainmaker, he now remembers having a child.
Bittersweet Ending: Young Joe kills himself to prevent Old Joe from murdering Cid's mother to get to the boy, an act which would have driven the boy to become the very Rainmaker Old Joe is trying to prevent. Though the future isn't certain, Cid possessing one parent instead of none (and a lot of cash) at least makes it more likely he won't become the feared mob boss, while also, as Young Joe noted earlier in the film, saving Old Joe's wife from the circumstances that get her killed.
Bizarre Baby Boom: It's stated that about 10% of the population has a mutation called "TK" (telekineses) that allows them to move objects with their mind. Later on, it becomes a Chekhov's Gun when it's revealed that the Bigger Bad is powerful enough to use it as a weapon to kill people.
Black Comedy: In subtle and usually stealthy ways, but there is a lot of it.
(A Gat Man sits on a chair, and the camera tilts to Young Joe, who's behind a couch, and then to Cid, who's on the stairs.)
Byronic Hero: Joe himself is a hitman who not only works for himself, but is also a flawed protagonist with a mysterious past that is never mentioned.
Car Cushion: Young Joe after falling off the fire escape at his apartment.
Carved Mark: In the event of "Running Loops" (a Looper failing to "close the loop" by killing his future self), the Gat Men employ a man known as "The Doc" to carve directions onto the arm of the "young" Looper, which then appear instantly on the "old" Looper as scars, as a means of crude communication. In the event that doesn't produce results fast enough, they start slowly dismembering the "young" Looper to cripple his "old" version.
Subverted later in the movie when Old Joe notices scars on his arm which appear to say the same thing ("Be at...") but turn out to spell the name "Beatrix". Old Joe points out that Young Joe could've just as easily got his attention with the name of another waitress whose name wasn't as long.
Character Development: Young Joe starts the film as reckless, self-absorbed and pretty ruthless. He starts to soften after arriving at Sara's farm, and he comes to care for both her and Cid. When Jesse takes Sara hostage, Joe makes a point of prioritizing her safety before trying to save his own neck, and despite initially being horrified by Cid's wild power, he has gained enough compassion to understand that there is a difference between a scared child and a ruthless mob boss. By the time of the final showdown, Joe is trying to protect Cid and Sara, rather than to get his life back. He ultimately sacrifices himself to prevent Old Joe from murdering Sara and inadvertently ensuring that Cid always becomes the Rainmaker.
Telekinesis is introduced early and dismissed as not being that big of a deal besides cheap parlor tricks. Cid, the future Rainmaker, turns out to have the power to make people explode with it, crush vehicles, and flatten entire areas. Foreshadowed by his mother hiding in an old safe when Cid gets angry.
A ball-peen hammer rests on Abe's desk in plain sight. He eventually uses it to smash Kid Blue's hand after the Gat Men fail to catch Joe.
Kid Blue comments on the range of the blunderbuss: "It's impossible to hit anything further than 15 yards, but impossible to miss anything closer." Young Joe later exploits this to kill Kid Blue with blind fire. But it also prevents him killing Old Joe because he's out of range.
Seth's barely working hovercycle, which is "borrowed" by a great many characters by the film's end.
Averted with the axe. It's a two-headed axe, so you'd think it has to end up chopping more than just wood. You'd think wrong.
China Takes Over the World: China becomes a superpower in the future, with the United States resembling immediate post-breakup Soviet Union. Characters are shown using yuan rather than dollars, and a number of future characters talk about how great life in China is.
Coitus Ensues: After almost no tension or romantic subtext, Sara suddenly calls Joe into the house and they have sex.
Cold-Blooded Torture: What the mobsters do to Young Seth to get to Old Seth, as well as the 'logic' that it wasn't actually torture. They just started removing things. If Abe can be kept at his word that killing a young looper is bad for the timeline, then they kept him alive without limbs, a nose, or a tongue for thirty years.
Complexity Addiction: One of the common complaints about the movie based on the trailer was that time travel plot seemed like a needlessly overcomplicated means of execution. However, this is actually averted in the film proper - advanced tracking and forensics in the future have made disposing of bodies nearly impossible, so they kidnap the targets and send them to the past for Loopers to kill.
Cool Car: Averted. Most vehicles in 2044 are decades-old models jerry-rigged to run on solar power, and only a select few 'future' cars are seen - and even those are outdated concept cars. There are hoverbikes and well-taken-care-of convertibles, however.
Cooldown Hug: Cid gets this after his TK powers spiral out of control.
Crapsack World: The US of 2044 suffers from hyper-inflation of the dollar, rampant drug use, roving bands of violent vagrants, loads and loads and loads of shantytowns, and criminal syndicates controlling entire cities, though Europe and Asia are at least implied to be better off. The world of 2074, meanwhile, is terrorized by a criminal overlord who kills thousands with every new attack.
Create Your Own Villain: Old Joe would have inadvertently ensured Cid becomes the Rainmaker in every future loop if he killed Cid's mother to get to the boy.
Creepy Child: Cid, particularly when he loses control of his TK.
Death's Hourglass: When a Looper's contract is up, his future self is sent back to him to be killed. The Looper doesn't find this out until he recovers his payment from the body - gold bars instead of the usual silver. He now knows that he has exactly 30 years left to live.
Delayed Ripple Effect: Changes to the timeline affect future selves as soon as they happen, but have no effect on any event before the change. For example, when the mobsters cut Young Seth's legs off, his future self's legs instantly disappear. However, events continue as though Future Seth still had two perfectly good legs up until that point, which is why he could even escape in the first place.
Meanwhile, in the Future: Any change to the timeline instantly updates the future self from the point of its occurrence.
Your Days Are Numbered: The fatalist variation: Young Joe keeps trying to kill his future self as part of his Looper contract, thus sealing his own fate in a 30 year Stable Time Loop, while his future self attempts to destroy it.
Determinator: For all his faults, the one thing that can be said about Kid Blue is that he will not take failure lying down.
Disposable Woman: Old Joe's wife pretty much just exists to get killed. She doesn't even merit a name in the credits.
Down On The Farm: The film takes place mainly in (future) Kansas, with nearly everything outside the unnamed city being nothing but farmland.
The Dreaded: The Rainmaker, an evil crime lord from the future who took control of every mob family single-handedly, and now presides over an international reign of terror and mass murder.
Et Tu, Brute?: Joe betrays his friend, Seth, by handing him over to Abe and his men, albeit reluctantly.
Everyone Is Armed: Due to the nature of the Crapsack World, causing a quite violent separation in social and economical classes; everyone can be killed for the sake of property or caprice with little to no consequence.
Fade to White: The film's ending leaves the future of Cid up in the air. Though it is heavily implied it will be better, since his mother survives (thus removing his revenge motive) and inherits a sizable fortune, and Young Joe had a decidedly positive impact both on Cid's life and his relationship with his mother.
Fake American: Emily Blunt, a Brit, plays the Kansas farmgirl Sara. Her loss of accent gets written in over time, since she's not really a farmgirl.
Old Joe: We all heard stories about the Rainmaker. Has a synthetic jaw, saw his mom get shot.
Not to mention the double Chekhov's Gun. With Seth as an example, telekinesis is suggested to be worth basically nothing. Then we find that Sara is much stronger than Seth. And finally there's Cid, who is much stronger than her...
An In-Universe example is the posters, drawings and action figures of a man in black wearing a wide-brimmed hat in Cid's room, just like the outfits worn by the Rainmaker's mooks in the future.
Film Noir: Rian Johnson's trademark love of noir comes through in certain spots.
Functional Addict: Averted. While relatively efficient at their jobs, both Joes are crippling addicts to the "eyedrop drug." Somewhat played straight with Old Joe however, as he's been off the stuff thanks to his wife. The withdrawal symptoms on the other hand look to be similar to heroin, only about a hundred times worse.
Fluffy the Terrible: Kid Blue. Just because his given name is such, doesn't mean that he won't be a mafioso.
Future Badass: While Young Joe, as a Looper, is a killer and criminal, his weapons experience basically boils down to shooting bound and gagged prisoners with a blunderbuss. Old Joe, however, has a few decades of hardened crime life under his belt, and is therefore much more of a threat.
Future Me Scares Me/I Hate Past Me: Old Joe is attempting to change his past and save his own life, but Young Joe enjoys his lifestyle too much to give a shit about the future and thus continues trying to kill Old Joe to preserve it.
"This job doesn't tend to attract the most forward thinking."
Gold Silver Copper Standard: The "Loopers" are usually paid in silver ingots, which are conveniently strapped to their targets. However, if they get gold instead, they know that they have "closed their loop" and killed their future selves. They are now free to enjoy their lives... for the next 30 years.
Most Loopers trade all their silver for cash (Chinese yuan), but Joe saves some of his in anticipation of retiring one day.
Although we see some blood coming out when Cid starts to murder Jesse, we don't see anything significant before the camera cuts away. As Young Joe and Sara run back into the house to look for Cid, the camera pans by the house on the outside, with one set of curtains almost completely red. When Joe finds Cid, his face and shirt are drenched in blood.
All we see of Young Seth being tortured is its effects as scars on Old Seth — then bodyparts vanishing — and then its aftermath - a lump of something swathed in a bloody sheet next to a heart monitor. As for his future self, the camera cuts away as he's blasted in what's left of his face.
The Hero Dies: In the end, Young Joe kills himself to stop Old Joe from killing Cid's mother and perpetuating the loop. It ensures the Rainmaker at least isn't a definite, but there's always the possibility.
Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Played with. Suzie seems like the standard HWAHOG, as a quasi-love interest and sympathetic parent figure, but she flatly rejects Joe's attempts to "save" her from her lifestyle, and she sees him as just another client.
I Die Free: Young Joe kills himself rather than let Old Joe create a Stable Time Loop that ensures the Rainmaker's continued existence.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Played straight with the majority of normal Gat Men, but averted with the Loopers' blunderbusses, which hit everything inside 15 feet and miss everything outside that range, and Kid Blue, who barely misses Young Joe while shooting with his off hand (his shooting hand being broken) on a slat bike.
It's All About Me: Joe is incredibly selfish, willing to give up his best friend to protect his bank account. Even his future self is unwilling to make a profound personal sacrifice to save his wife's life, despite this being his supposed mission.
Jerkass Has a Point: Young Joe(who at this point is still a fairly selfish jerkass) bluntly tells Old Joe that if he truly wanted to save his wife, he could simply forget. While very cold, he's still right.
Karmic Death: All the loopers. After making a life by killing people, they end up killed by themselves. On a more specific example Old Joe, and to a lesser extent, Young Joe.
Lampshade Hanging: Old Joe's explanation to why they should NOT touch the fickle Time Travel subject. Being Genre Savvy, after they present such an eerie subject as Time Travel, they drop it for the most part - up until it starts slamming back into their faces. Word Of God says Old Joe doesn't quite understand it himself, and doesn't really want to talk about it.
Left Hanging: The interactions between Abe and Kid Blue seem to be leading up to a reveal that they're the same person, but it's never confirmed either way.
Johnson has admitted that he hadn't intended it that way, and that it hadn't even occurred to him until fans started asking. Some scenes that were deleted would have made such an interpretation impossible, but the director is a huge fan of the theory.
Lens Flare: all over the place. The creators seem to have a special liking for horizontal-blue-line flares.
Love Redeems: Subverted and inverted. At first, it seems that Old Joe's main motivation is to save his wife's life. But when Young Joe offers to memorize her picture and walk away when he meets her in the future, ensuring that she'll live without him, he refuses. Old Joe wants the life he had with his wife back, and he is willing to kill three children to get it. Love has made him more selfish, not less; he wants to have his cake and eat it too.
Double subverted when Sara's love for her son and his memories of his own mother inspires Young Joe's Heroic Sacrifice, setting things right.
When Abe tells Joe why he hired him in the first place, he tells him that, when they first met, he could see how his entire future life was going to go. He says that things were going to end badly, "so I changed it." At the end, Joe uses almost the same words.
Joe asks Suzie to stroke his hair like his mother did. After his heroic sacrifice, Sara strokes his hair in the same way.
Or the fact that he makes it rain blood as evidenced by his countenance after Jesse's death.
Sara may also qualify as a shout-out to another badass mother of a preternaturally gifted child. Sound familiar?
Mind Over Matter: Telekinesis has been discovered by 2044, with 10% of humanity born with the potential for it. However, most people can't do much more than clumsily levitate quarters, with varying degrees of focus and effort required. Sara can easily levitate a metal cigarette lighter and casually spin it around in smooth circles. Cid can levitate all the furniture in a room, apply enough force to flip a moving vehicle, send out a shockwave that knocks over everything within a hundred yards, and make people explode. And that's before he learns to focus his abilities...
Misapplied Phlebotinum/Mundane Utility: The mafia uses time travel for executions and corpse disposal. Nobody else uses it because it's illegal. A more subtle use of time travel is money laundering; precious metals are sent into the past and exchanged for currency, creating a loop of untraceable funds for the mob. In addition, using precious metals as payment creates a self-perpetuating devaluation of said metals. In the future, it would cost the mob practically nothing to purchase large amounts of it as payment for their employees in the past, whose subsequent sale of the metal reduces its value and closes the loop.
Missing Mom: Revealed to be the Rainmaker's Start of Darkness if the loop Old Joe inadvertently started continued: Cid, enraged and in grief over his mother's death, decides to become the Rainmaker and kill all Loopers.
My Car Hates Me: At one point, Joe has to use Seth's incredibly unreliable bike to escape, and only just manages to start it up in time.
Mutilation Interrogation: What happens to Seth's younger self, leading to his future self having his body parts disappearing one by one.
Never Trust a Trailer: Certain adverts make it seem that Young Joe was on the run from Abe due to being rather unwilling to kill Old Joe, and that the two would end up grudgingly cooperating with each other. Sara and Cid are barely mentioned.
No New Fashions In The Future: Played with. 2044 clothes for the most part look like ragged versions of 2012 ones, although Abe considers Young Joe's necktie (and general outfit) as being outdated and "too 20th Century." Ironically enough, from what people see of the world leading up to 2074, fashions seem to increasingly resemble The Forties with fedoras, overcoats and Casablanca-ish dresses.
Not So Different: Old Joe is apparently willing to kill three kids because they each might become the Rainmaker. Cid, who will become the Rainmaker, is trying to kill all Loopers, in the future, possibly because he figures one might be the guy who killed his mom.
Towards the mid-point of the movie, Old Joe goes on a lecture about how selfish and childish Young Joe is. Young Joe rebuffs him, saying he's willing to kill Old Joe to preserve his way of life. Old Joe, again, tells him how childish and selfish this is. Then Old Joe goes about killing children in an attempt to preserve the course he wants his life to take.Even the director acknowledged the similarity.
Oh Crap: More like Oh, I just remebered I shoot myself 30 years ago. All the more priceless.
One-Man Army: The Rainmaker, a powerful telekenetic who takes over several extremely powerful crime syndicates singlehandedly. Also Old Joe, a highly trained killer who singlehandedly takes out Abe and all his henchmen.
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Sara has a very noticeable Southern accent when she first 'meets' Joe. It disappears as the movie goes on. Given that she's in charge of protecting Cid under the guise of being a simple farmer taking care of her son in the boonies, this is most likely part of the act.
Red Baron: The Rainmaker, the terrifying future crimelord who sets the movie's plot into motion. That may sound like a relatively odd and unthreatening nickname... until you find out how he got it. Hint: he doesn't create rains of water...
Reality Is Unrealistic: Face prosthetics are used to make Gordon-Levitt look more like Willis rather than CGI. People complained that the CGI used to alter his face was bad.
Reluctant Warrior: Downplayed. Sara doesn't want to kill anyone, but has to protect her farm from vagrants in some way. She uses a shotgun loaded with rock salt; highly unlikely to be fatal, but it hurts like hell.
Revolvers Are Just Better: Literally true in this movie. While the Loopers do the grunt work of killing targets and use crude blunderbusses, the elite Gat Men carry long-barreled, large-caliber six-shooters.
Self-Made Orphan: Subverted. The woman who Cid killed wasn't his mother, even though he thought she was.
Joe: Then I saw it. I saw a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, and a boy angry and alone, the bad path laid out in front of him. I saw it, and the path was a circle, round and round. So I changed it.
Short Range Shotgun: The "blunderbuss" is an extremely short range weapon, but inside of its range, it is, in Kid Blue's words, "impossible to miss anything closer [than 15 yards]." He also called it "a gun for fuck-ups" compared to his Gat, which makes sense because killing a bound and gagged man with a crude and overpowered shotgun at point-blank range is not exactly a job requiring a lot of skill.
Abe's club is named "La Belle Aurore", the French bar Rick and Ilsa were at during the German invasion in Casablanca. Joe's Character Development was also loosely based on Rick's own growth from a selfish man into a hero who would sacrifice his happiness to ensure another's. The scene in which Seth pleads with Joe to hide him is extremely similar to a scene between Ugarte and Rick.
Early in the film, Young Joe is shown in several scenes wearing dress pants and a wifebeater like John McClane, somewhat alluding to Willis playing his older counterpart.
Show, Don't Tell: The effects of future drugs, how Temporal Mutability works, and the Rainmaker's power are all shown in often horrifying ways before any explanation of them is given.
Simultaneous Arcs: The scene where Joe finds the Gat Men looking for him after failing to kill his future self is seen from the younger and future selves' point of views.
Smoking Hot Sex: Sara has her first cigarette in a long while after she and Joe have sex.
Something Only They Would Say: Seth screws up closing his loop because his future self arrives singing a familiar song, making Seth hesitate long enough to confirm his identity. From there, Seth didn't have the nerve to follow through.
Stealth Pun: Kid Blue shooting himself in the foot, and then proceeding to fuck up just about everything he tries to do in the film.
Stable Time Loop: Averted. You can mutilate or kill somebody's past self and their older self will be affected. Old Joe also nearly creates one by trying to kill Cid, thereby ensuring the Rainmaker will exist in all future loops, only for Young Joe to destroy the loop at the last second.
Start of Darkness: This would have been one for Cid if Old Joe killed his mother, leading him on the path to becoming the Rainmaker.
Temporal Mutability: History can be altered, but the timeline actively tries to correct itself to absurd degrees. For instance, Old Joe almost ensures a Stable Time Loop that will create the Rainmaker in his attempt to destroy it.
Timey Wimey Ball: Time travel works on some form of the Delayed Ripple Effect... most of the time. For instance, how did Cid become the Rainmaker in the previous loop where Young Joe killed Old Joe? And even if Joe's kindness undoes this by influencing Cid, why was the Rainmaker still hellbent on taking out all the Loopers before Old!Joe killed his mother?
Sort of implied that Cid would have TK'd Sara in a fit of rage at some point. Consider that Young Joe stepping into their lives had a positive impact on Cid and Sara's relationship.
Troll: Sara, back before she settled down, mentions that she used to mess with the "party trick" TK users by using her own TK to completely short-circuit the tricks they did.
Villain Protagonist: Both Joes are hitmen. Young Joe is a hedonistic junkie who wants no part of his future's Crapsack World. Old Joe kills kids to ensure that his wife isn't killed by the Rainmaker's goons.
“Well Done Son” Guy: While he doesn't seem to be Abe's son, Kid Blue has this relationship with his boss.
"All I wanted... all I ever wanted... was for you to tell me I done good."
Abe actually seems to encourage this to a certain degree, taking in boys and making them part of his organization young in hopes they'll view him as a father figure. His whole Affably Evil demeanor is built around it.
You're Not My Mother: Played with. the truth is that Sara is Cid's birth mother, but she abandoned him for the party life, so he was raised by Sara's sister, and called her mom instead. He killed his aunt with his TK and feels guilty about it. That comes out as anger and resentment at his mother for having created the situation by abandoning him. Cid eventually recants having said it.