Love Among the Ruins


The time-travel action film Looper closely resembles James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi classic The Terminator, reiterating that film’s futuristic vision of a murderous dystopia relieved and even redeemed, ultimately, by sacrifice, heroism, and love. The story is set three decades from now, in a future that is itself the past to an even more remote future. This canny two-stage structure allows writer-director Rian Johnson to double down on the sense of doom. The world of 2044 is bad enough; what in God’s name will come after that?

Summarizing the plot is a challenge, but here goes. In the ultra-authoritarian world of 2074, disposing of bodies is difficult, and detection highly proficient, so gangsters who want to murder people have devised a novel means of doing it: sending them back through time to 2044—the “present” of the movie—where they materialize, already bound and hooded, to be instantly executed, via a shotgun blast, by paid bounty hunters known as loopers: “taking out the future’s garbage,” as our protagonist, a young looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), mordantly calls it.

The whole shebang is run by a smoothly scary mobster from the future named Abe (Jeff Daniels, stealing the show...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper is Commonweal's contributing editor.