Looper is a 2012 American science fiction action thriller film written and directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. In the film, time travel is invented by the year 2074 and, though immediately outlawed, is used by criminal organizations to send those they want killed into the past where they are killed by “loopers”, assassins paid with silver bars strapped to their targets. Joe, a looper, encounters himself when his older self is sent back in time to be killed.
Looper was selected as the opening film of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. Since its release, it has been critically acclaimed, with much of the praise going to its acting, originality, and action sequences. It was released in Australia on September 27, 2012, and in the US and the UK on September 28, 2012 by TriStar Pictures and FilmDistrict in the US, and Entertainment One in the UK.
In 2044, 25-year-old Joe works for a Kansas City crime syndicate as a “looper.” Managed by a man sent from the future named Abe, loopers kill and dispose of victims sent back in time and are paid with bars of silver strapped to the target, whose face is hidden by a bag. When a looper is retired, the looper’s future, older self is sent back thirty years as a target for his younger self, but with gold bars as a payment. This event is referred to as “closing the loop”; failing to close the loop is punishable by execution.
Joe’s best friend Seth, part of a telekinetic minority, confides that he failed to close his own loop, and that his future self warned him of a mysterious person called the Rainmaker, who has in the future overthrown the five major crime bosses and is ending the loopers’ contracts in 2074. Joe reluctantly hides Seth in his apartment’s secret floor safe, but the place is searched and Joe is taken to Abe by Kid Blue. Given the choice of revealing Seth’s hiding place or forfeiting half of the silver he has hoarded, Joe betrays Seth. Abe’s men cut an address into Seth’s arm, then begin severing parts of his body, causing his older self to begin to show these mutilations and compelling him to go to the address, where he is then killed.
When Joe’s next target arrives, it is Joe’s older self. Before Joe can close his loop, Old Joe shields himself with the gold bars, knocks younger Joe unconscious and escapes. Returning to his apartment, Young Joe fights with Kid Blue, only to fall off a fire escape and black out.
In the original timeline, Young Joe kills his older self as he arrives. He moves to Shanghai, where his drug addiction and life of crime persists. Many years later he meets a woman during a bar fight; the two fall in love and marry. Thirty years after he killed his older self, Joe is taken to close the loop, but his wife is killed in the process. Overpowering his captors, Joe sends himself back to 2044 unbound and unmasked. When he sees his younger self fall from the fire escape, he drags him to a safe location.
Old Joe explains to Young Joe that he is going to kill the Rainmaker as a child to change the future and save his wife. Kid Blue and more of Abe’s men show up, and a gunfight ensues. Young Joe ends up with a corner of Old Joe’s map containing one of three locations circled on the map and a number.
Young Joe heads to the marked place, a farm where Sara and her son Cid live. Sara recognizes the number on the map as Cid’s birthday along with the code of the hospital where he was born. Young Joe guesses Old Joe is going to kill all three children born that day, not knowing which one will become the Rainmaker. Joe waits at the farm for his older self.
Jesse, one of Abe’s men, comes looking for both Joes. He later returns and threatens Sara. Cid falls down the stairs and becomes upset, triggering an enormous telekinetic blast that kills Jesse, revealing that Cid is a powerful telekinetic and the future Rainmaker.
Kid Blue captures Old Joe and takes him to Abe. Old Joe breaks free and kills Abe and many of his men. Old Joe then travels to Sara’s farm. While Young Joe kills Kid Blue, Old Joe pursues Sara and Cid, eventually shooting at Cid, with the bullet grazing his face. Cid creates another telekinetic blast, but is calmed by Sara before he can kill her and Old Joe. Telling Cid to run into the cane field, Sara stands in Old Joe’s line of sight to shield her son. Young Joe, seeing Old Joe about to shoot Sara, realizes the event will turn Cid into the Rainmaker. Too far away to prevent it, he kills himself, erasing Old Joe, saving Sara and potentially preventing Cid from becoming the Rainmaker.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: