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The Importance of Plot Part 3


An Analysis of Looper

Read part 1: The Importance of Plot – Part 1
Read part 2: The Importance of Plot – Part 2

In part 1 I talked about the logic problem of loopers having to kill their future selves. Part 2 dealt with the massive plot hole that derails the whole movie. Now I’m going to address some of the sub-plots, and ways they could come together at the end to increase the drama and catharsis of the ending. We’ll also look at some of the minor logic problems and some things that could have been fixed in the editing room.


There’s been a lot said about what a strong character Sara is, and on the surface I’d agree. However as we’ve discussed, there isn’t much depth to her. We don’t care for her anywhere near as much as Cid or old Joe because her story is relegated to the past, as exposition. Even in that final climax, Joe’s dilemma comes down to whether he thinks Cid’s life will be ruined or not, rather than whether Sara lives or dies. If Sara’s character had been stronger, maybe we could have also seen a glimmer of hope of a relationship between Sara and Joe. We could have had a real emotional conflict between young Joe and old Joe, together with a very healthy dose of dramatic irony. Picture that final stand-off between Sara, old Joe and young Joe and imagine if young Joe and Sara had a deeper connection.

While trying to save the relationship he knows, old Joe is about to kill Sara, unaware that she is becoming an equally soul restoring partner for young Joe, and possibly ruining any chance of young Joe finding love in the future. Young Joe faces a dilemma to save himself and live with the loss of Sara, or kill himself to save Sara, saving the life of old Joe’s wife in the process.

That’s really powerful stuff, a true emotional dilemma. But we miss out on it because Joe is too cynical to feel anything for Sara, and Sara’s only real concern is for Cid. As Johnson explains in the commentary, he didn’t want any romance between Joe and Sara so he could focus the story on Cid. What a shame that we missed out on that dramatic and emotional complexity.

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The Importance of Plot Part 2


An Analysis of Looper

Read part 1 of this article: The Importance of Plot – Part 1

In part 1 I talked about the logic problem of loopers having to kill their future selves. This time we’re going to look at the massive plot hole that derails the whole movie. Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about, but some may be asking “What plot hole? Looper was great”. It’s difficult to know where to start talking about this plot hole because it affects, and attempts to bring meaning to, so many aspects of the movie. So I’ll just come out and say it:

The Rainmaker

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great concept. A bad guy tears up the future, so a good guy goes back to the past to kill the bad guy before he can become the bad guy. Embedded within is the excellent ethical dilemma of whether it’s right to punish or kill someone before they’ve done bad things, compounded by the fact that the bad guy is probably a child at that point. When you add that the good guys past self becomes attached to the future bad guy child, you’ve got a recipe for some great external conflict and internal conflict as both versions of the good guy fight each other. That sounds like the makings of an awesome movie right there.

The question could be asked at this point, if it even needs the addition of assassins doing hits on people sent back from the future. It’s almost seems as if Looper is two different movies that have been shoehorned together, and we haven’t even mentioned telekinesis yet. I’m reminded of Good Will Hunting where apparently Weinstein looked at an early draft and realised there were two different stories competing. His advice was to focus on one story or the other. Damon and Affleck did, and ended up with a great movie.

Although the Rainmaker elements of the story could work by themselves, remember the idea of a looper was the initial inspiration. I wonder if that idea could sustain a movie without the Rainmaker? We have a looper who fails to assassinate his future self. If we remove the Rainmaker as motivation, surely old Joe would still be pissed at the crime syndicate that sent him back, or maybe his misplaced anger is directed to the authorities that took down the crime syndicate. His wife being killed could even remain as fuel on the fire. Old Joe then has two objectives. To take down the crime syndicate before it exists, or whoever took them down, and to save his wife. Young Joe has to decide whether to help old Joe or help himself. Young Joe could be given some connection to either the syndicate or the wife to add conflict. There seems to be plenty of scope to create a dramatic and intriguing story out of that alone.

It could even be set up so that events that occur in the looper movie end up creating the Rainmaker. Sara could be a minor character in the looper movie, still a junkie partying with Joe and his friends, who gets killed. Without Sara’s influence Cid becomes the Rainmaker, creating havok in the future and ruining Joe’s life. Joe decides to come back (again), this time to find out who the Rainmaker is and stop him, either by killing him or preventing Sara’s death.

So these ideas could work for two separate movies, or a movie and a sequel. Surely there’s a way to include them in the same movie. How did it all go so wrong?

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The Importance of Plot – Part 1


An Analysis of Looper

When I heard that the the maker of The Brothers Bloom was making a movie about time travel, with Bruce Willis in it no less, I was expecting great things. I really enjoyed The Brothers Bloom. It was clever, and funny, and charming and meaningful, and did I say clever? I mean, it really surprised me, which is what you want from a caper movie. I just love it when there’s a twist in a movie that manages to change the meaning of everything you’ve seen. I also love time travel movies, the best of which have that same kind of clever twist at the end. 12 Monkeys, Back to the Future and Terminator are among my favorite movies ever. So I was really looking forward to a clever movie that surprised me and made me think of time travel in a different way and had depth and meaning. But Looper wasn’t that movie.

I noticed minor problems in the first two acts of Looper, but nothing that couldn’t be excused if the ending nailed it. There were many things to like, including the fluid and messy way of how the future changes. Unfortunately when it came to the final conflict, not only did it introduce a massive plot hole, but the plot hole obliterated everything that had come before it, as well as any meaning the movie might have had. Suddenly all of those earlier problems seemed much more pertinent, like warning bells that I’d ignored at my own peril. It was so close though. It almost worked, which somehow made it even worse. I could feel its potential like when a word is on the tip of your tongue and well, it bugged me.

After watching the movie, I wanted to find some meaning in what I just saw. My first thought was to see if Johnson answered any of my questions in his interviews. I was hoping that Johnson would have a simple explanation to the plot hole, that just didn’t happen to make it into the film. If that was the case I would have walked away happily, my curiosity sated, and I wouldn’t be writing this article. Instead I found this interview where Johnson was asked about it point blank, and was gutted by his answer.

“That’s the Terminator question… you can shoehorn it into making sense… but it’s magic logic”.

Really? Magic?

Saying it’s magic is the equivalent of “he woke up and it was all a dream”? It’s just plain cheating. I mean, he offers legitimate and logical answers for some of the other questions, just not that most important one – the one that justifies everything that occurs in the movie. A switch inside my head was triggered and I heard my inner voice say “Challenge accepted”.

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