Plot holes and broken physics

What would you do if confronted by your older self from the future?

This is the intriguing premise behind Rian Johnson’s new film, Looper. The plot is elementary science fiction at its best: a young, cocky, mob gunman, Joe Simmons (portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is confronted by an older, wiser incarnation of himself.

Joe is largely an unintelligent ‘looper’ tasked with dispatching mob patsies hurled back through time by his future-dwelling bosses. But his life is turned upside down when his next target — himself, only 30 years older (Bruce Willis) — gives him the slip and escapes.

This is a film which purports much moral dilemma. But when young Joe sits down with his escaped future self, there is no soul- searching over a cup of coffee. When old Joe speaks of having been healed by the love of his wife, young Joe sneers and speaks only about knocking off his future self so as to become right with his mob bosses again.

Old Joe, meantime, plans to eliminate a vaunted kingpin of the future. In young Joe’s world, however, the kingpin is only a child. This does little to deter old Joe. He is a killer after all, despite his refinement through love. The movie is part Terminator, part X-Men, part Timecop (the cheese-infused Van Damme thriller) and part Witness — the 1985 film which placed Harrison Ford on an Amish farm. Joe too hides at a farm, waiting for himself and a lynching party, and worming his way into the bed of an appealing local woman (Emily Blunt).

What Mr Johnson has ultimately tried to do is explore the classic time-travel paradox. If you could go back and kill Hitler, would you? What would be the effects of changing the past? In this film, the consequences don’t seem to be much. Just a few unsympathetic low lives meeting their end. But a sincere ending does finally achieve what the filmmakers were trying so hard to do all along.