Looper is one of those weirdly thought-provoking time travel movies that only kind of make sense when you think about them. In fact, it’s probably best not to think too hard about the whole concept.

Image via Way Too Indie

The story, which takes place in 2044, features a 25-year-old hitman named Joe (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). It’s through Joe’s narration at the beginning that we find out right up front that he’s a “looper”.

Bear with me here, because it’s a bit convoluted. Because tracking systems in the future have made it almost impossible to dispose of dead bodies, the big criminal syndicate (which you invariably find in any proper dystopian future) uses time travel to get rid of their trash (so to speak). You see, time travel was invented 30 years afterward, a.k.a. in 2074, and immediately outlawed (for reasons that aren’t explained, probably because the movie spends most of the first five or 10 minutes explaining the setup). Naturally, merely outlawing time travel doesn’t discourage the criminals from using it to get rid of the inconvenient victim by sending them back in time and whacking them there, which is what the looper does. And while loopers are paid well, they only have 30 years to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. That’s because the syndicate “retires” loopers by sending them back in time and having their past selves assassinate them. I won’t go into the ins and outs of the process. Just trust me when I say that loopers know by the way that they’re paid when they’ve been retired. Got that? 🙂

Image via Pictureland

When Joe’s friend Seth (another looper) allows his old self to escape, he ends up in a pretty bad place at the hands of his criminal bosses. But first he warns Joe about someone in the future called the Rainmaker, who will overthrow all the major criminal bosses.

Image via ComingSoon.net.

The screenplay does a fantastic job of setting that up quickly. And here’s where I’ll stop discussing the plot, because to say more would totally ruin the movie for you. But is it a huge surprise that 25-year-old Joe ends up letting 55-year-old Joe (played by Bruce Willis) get away from him? And that the two Joes end up playing cat and mouse, as Young Joe tries to evade going the way of Seth and Old Joe sets his sights on killing the Rainmaker as a child. A path that eventually leads to a woman named Sara (played by Emily Blunt) and her son.

Image via Pop Mythology.

I will give the movie credit for being highly imaginative and outright mind-blowing. The film has the kind of plot that requires you to pay attention to what’s going on or you’ll get lost quickly. None of this is a bad thing. The movie has doubtless led to many discussions of exactly what was happening and how it could happen — given the usual inconvenience of time travel paradoxes.

However, the much lauded “neat” ending to the story seemed somewhat less than neat to me. In fact, for me the story ended with a huge question mark as to whether the future was changed or what happened was fated. And I suspect psychologists will find plenty of food for thought on the issues of “nature versus nurture” in the storyline.

Image via Collider.

On top of which, every time I saw Bruce Willis, I pictured him saying something like, “This hasn’t happened to me since 12 Monkeys.”

Be that as it may, this movie deserves a pat on the back for wrestling with some major issues, even if the story has a few plotholes here and there. I recommend this one for serious fans of neo-noir science fiction.

PS: Got a problem with ‘Looper’s time traveling plot holes? Let’s talk about that …

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Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack

New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, including the Sam McRae Mystery series. Screenwriter, podcaster, and blogger. My website: www.debbimack.com.