Thursday, October 4, 2012


Killing Time
Maybe You; Möbius

The trouble with time-travel movies is the really good ones (that is, the plausible ones—if such a thing exists) require a flow-chart to make any sense, and once you're doing that, you take a lot of the fun out of it.  That would be the problem with going back in time—you'd be spending so much time making sure you didn't disturb anything and cleaning up after oneself that you'd hardly have any time reliving the past in the present if you hope to have any future.  As one of the characters says "This time-travel crap, it fries your brain like an egg."

Fortunately, Rian Johnson (who made the rather precious Brick, and the entirely commendable The Brothers Bloom) has already done the muck-work for Looper, a tough-as-nails-time-travel noir set in the year 2044, where thirty years hence (2072) time-travel will be invented...and instantly made illegal.  Well, if time-travel is outlawed, only outlaws will have time-travel, and so organized crime uses it—not to increase the fortunes, but to dispose of their garbage.  "You can't dispose of a body in the future," narrates Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the long explanatory opening voice-over).  "I dispose a body that technically doesn't exist."  The future-hoods (dressed like Leone gunfighters) kidnap a "disposable," throw a hood over his head, hog-time him in a vest lined with silver bars, and toss him in the time machine, where he quickly appears in 2044, is just as quickly "whacked" and the silver mined as payment by the executioner, called a "looper"—local-time kids, who are given rich rewards, a steady cache of drugs, and rental of a woman of his choice.  They live like sociopathic kings in a Karl Rove dreamscape, where the meek don't inherit nuthin'—the middle class roaming the streets, pushing shopping carts, while the killers drive jet-cycles.  Overseeing this mob is Abe (Jeff Daniels), recruited from the future to manage the loopers and keep them in line, which include a rather draconian retirement policy (don't these guys read their hiring contracts?) that forces them to "retire" their older selves when they are sent back in time for disposal—you get your gold-watch at the start of your career and a gold lined cement overshoes at the end.  

That's the set-up.*  Things get complicated, when Joe stands in his chosen field, waiting for the body-to-be to show up on the blood-tarp, and when it does, there's no hood, and when he looks into his target's eyes, they're his.  Joe has to kill himself from the future.

You know that already.  You've seen the set-up, read the poster.** But the implications, why that is, why "Old Joe" shows up with no hood, and what comes next...and next...and next...and then back...then next, would be revealing any of the surprises the film has in store.  It's enough to say that, in surface detail, it's quite an ingenious little ride, and the plot-holes are kept cleverly out of sight and out of mind, and one has to assume a lot, such as evidently time-travel only exists as a form of going back to the past, and not forward into the future, as one of the characters does it "the old-fashioned way."  And one has to accept a lot of "fuzzy mechanism" mumbo-jumbo for things happening to Joe that ultimately affects "old Joe"—for instance the rather painful form of communication between the two, that is further demonstrated in the extreme by another looper (played by Paul Dano), which is just a damned clever device, but also grisly to the queasy point.

Lots of some interesting forms, and one of the alarming things is how fast people get shot in 2044—you appear(BOOM!), and Johnson is doing some very clever things with the camera these days that aren't so derivative of other directors.  That's good.  His sense of timing in editing is still as razor sharp as it has always been, and he's not afraid to mess with aspect-ratios for effect.  The ideas are good, and one thing Johnson has always had is a clever way with dialogue, which is where Looper shines, time after time.

Looper is a Matinee.  And it might be worth seeing again some time.

* ...except for one little tidbit of information that some of us have mutated to have telekinesis, but it doesn't amount to much—"no superhero stuff." says Joe  "We can float quarters.  That's it."  Yeah, but...  It wouldn't BE there if it wasn't necessary.  And it is, but only semi-so.

** And if anybody is wondering why JoGo-Levitt looks weird in this movie, it's because he's been given a prosthetics make-over so he has Willis' nose, eyes, lip-line, and theinning hair and does a rather inspired Willis-routine throughout the movie, especially in an interview with Abe where the resemblance and mannerisms are uncanny. 

1 comment:

Candice Frederick said...

definitely worth seeing again. only if just to close up some of those questions you had he first time, and make sure they're not flaws.