Looper (US-China, 2012)


Back to the future

It’s pleasing to note that the most significant point of this film isn’t the US-China co-production credits; it’s a good film too. East and west have been at loggerheads for the whole of my lifetime but capitalism has found a way to unite ‘enemies’. One way of getting into China’s protected film market, which has enormous potential, is through making a film with the enemy. Rian Johnson’s ‘hard’ SF thriller was originally set in Paris but it actually makes more sense that the future be in Shanghai; after all, if we have a future economically, the east is likely to be where it’s at.

Much of the Shanghai shot material is absent from the western version, for reasons of pace, and Bruce Willis’ ‘love interest’ Qing Xu is mute making her appear typically mysterious and Oriental. Her muteness also serves to emphasis that she’s a cypher of male desire as Joe (Willis and Gordon-Levitt as the younger version) need a woman to save them. Like the Driver, in the previous post, Joe is man who struggles to relate to others beyond guns and cars. So far so conventional machismo but Looper distinguishes itself when we discover that’s actually what the film’s about.

The plot, where young Joe executes people sent from the future, is a teasing tangle of paradoxes including a tour de force of what happens when someone from the future escapes but their past version is captured: barely watchable! However, as the narrative comes satisfyingly into focus it’s clear that the film is suggesting that the future has to be ‘female’. This representation might be built upon the ‘woman as mother’ trope but that’s far better than eulogising machismo.

The world of young Joe, America, is a clearly a dystopia but it looked a portrait of exactly where we are going with the growing divide between rich and poor. This is SF at its best, holding up a mirror to the contemporary world giving us pause for thought about what we want the future to be.


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