In one of the diner scenes in Rian Johnson’s new sci-fi-action-drama combo-pack, Looper, older Joe (played by Bruce Willis) says to his younger self (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), “Try not to think about it too much.” And when it comes to time travel films, perhaps it is best to simply let your mind bend and mold to the story rather than trying to analyze and rationalize every paradox and movement of the world they’ve created. Looper is film with massive ideas and a plot that reveals its layers the deeper you travel through it. The film feels like weaving your way through an intricate web of details and plot twists that are structured masterfully to keep a pace that never lets your excitement fall–even when it seems the film forgets what genre it’s inhabiting. And after watching, it’s not hard to assume that Johnson was working with a vast subconscious pool of influences–from the dystopian futures of Ridley Scott to the existential questions of Chris Marker, creating a time travel thriller for the modern man’s anxieties that still felt as human as it did alien.
But however you felt about the film, you’re bound to leave the theater with a few questions unanswered, your mind a bit hazy to all that you just witnessed. Thankfully, /Film has provided some answers with the help of Johnson himself. Focused on revealing ten mysteries of of the film, dig into their interview–but only if you’ve already seen the film.
4. How does murder work in the future? Why can’t the mobsters kill there and what happens when Joe’s wife is killed?
The film mentions briefly mentions that, in the future, tracking technology stops murders from happening. But we explicitly see Joe’s wife murdered in the future. Johnson said this was one of several things he worked out in his head but didn’t put in the movie because it felt superfluous to the story. He instead explained it to us.
“Everybody in the movie has this nano technology tracking in their body and whenever there’s a death, a location tag is sent to the authorities from this tracking material. So they can’t kill people in the future. But if they send them back, that is not triggered.” He continues, “The material is powered off the body’s heat and it has a two year life after the person dies.” As for the wife, that was a big mistake made by the mobsters and the reason we see the shot of the village burning is that’s their half-assed attempt to cover it up.
5. Knowing a looper killed his mother, is the Rainmaker closing all these loops for revenge?
“Or is he doing it because he’s come to power and he’s wiping everything out? It’s a good question.” says Johnson, suggesting there’s really no answer.
6. Why is it essential for a looper to close his own loop?
This is another one of those questions Johnson had answered in his head but didn’t put in the movie. In fact, he even conceived a scene with Abe addressing it but never shot it.
“People in the future, all they know about time travel is to be afraid of it. So they’re trying to keep it as tight as possible. So the initial reason they set it up this way was to keep the causality loop as tight as possible,” Johnson said. Because, for example, if someone else kills your older self and you have to exist with your own murderer for 30 years, what’s stopping you for murdering them or doing something to screw everything else up? ”Every bit of evidence is gone from that loop when you kill yourself,” he said.
7. Was Joe in love with Sarah and was this something explored more in different versions of the script?
Johnson said he explicitly didn’t want Joe and Sarah to fall in love because Joe’s decision at the end has to be because he sees himself in Cid, not out of love for Sarah. Instead, their love scene is just “two lonely people in an intense situation together.” Johnson did admit, though, “There are hints that if Joe had lived, something might have happened, but in the context of the story? No.”