Too close for comfort
by Nandia Foteini Vlachou
Looper is a great film. Written and directed by Rian Johnson, it gets a lot of things right, from time-travel (always a tricky thing in sci-fi) down to telekinetic mutations and hover bikes (wasn’t it Joss Whedon that once jokingly said that there wasn’t a point in making a sci-fi movie without hover vehicles?). It boasts solid performances from a heavily made-up (but steadily impressive) Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt and scene-stealer Jeff Daniels, not to mention Bruce Willis who constantly brings to mind 12 Monkeys (or a short but memorable appearance by Paul Dano). It’s difficult to speak about the plot without spoiling any of it, so I will simply refer the viewer to imdb for a concise summary. Yet, what clings to my mind the day after having seen it, is an early shot, otherwise unrelated to the main plot. In it, a group of the young and sleek murderers, the “loopers” of the movie’s title, drive recklessly through the city, in an expensive car, high on recreational drugs after a night spent in a fashionable bar. Suddenly the car brakes, stopping just short from hitting a pedestrian. The camera lingers on a scrawny 8-10 year old, dressed in rags, and holding a battered soccer ball. The kid looks steadily the driver in the eye (Gordon-Levitt), the viewer senses vaguely something stirring in the latter, and then the moment passes.
The reason that Looper is a great film is not (simply) the performances, the emotional punch that it packs (presumably also depending on whether one has children or not) or the clever and original script (a rarity nowadays). It is a great film because the dystopian world that it portrays, merely 32 years away (the movie takes place mostly in 2044), is eerily close to our present. Using gadgetry rather sparingly (other than the above-mentioned hover bikes), and quite distant from the orient-phobic future of Blade Runner or the radical devastation of mass epidemic of 12 Monkeys, Looper shows a world wrecked by social inequality, and poverty. There are people with money (the ones in the “loop”, literally and metaphorically, prefer theirs in silver bars, an obvious allusion to the instability of paper money and the constant currency fluctuations) and people with no money and it is really as simple as that. There are people living in the streets, driving cars that seem to have run for decades, unable to afford food, shelter, clothes, the “vagrants”, as they are repeatedly called throughout the movie, whose lives are worthless. The chilling vision of a future that looks like an aggravated version of our present is what sets Looper apart from standard sci-fi films and perhaps, hopefully, represents a raising awareness concerning these thorny issues. Significantly, the eagerly anticipated Elysium (2013) by director Neill Blomkamp, whose District 9 was nothing short of a masterpiece, portrays another dystopian future where the wealthy live safely in a space station while the rest of the population inhabits an environmentally devastated planet. One cannot help but ask: is this the future that we will bequeath to our children?