Looper takes the journey through past, present, and future full circle


SPOILERS Looper is more than a stylish, time-travel thriller. It explores how the past affects the present and the present affects the future. Joe’s well-financed self-centered existence involves fast vehicles, drugs, impersonal sex, and the occasional murder of an anonymous bad guy from the future. In the movie mobsters 30 years in the future send their targets back to 2044, where those targets are killed by paid assassins called loopers. Joe eventually must decide whether or not to “close the loop” and kill his future self, who is sent back. Even before this confrontation Joe’s in-the-moment lifestyle is wearing thin and he is beginning to recognize the devastating effect his choices are having on his spirit.

Joe’s journey takes him out of the city where he meets farmer, Sara, and her troubled son Cid. Joe recognizes his desire for a real relationship, for family, for something deeper than a superficial life full of compromise and violence. Sara’s love for Cid arouses memories of Joe’s own mother and forces him to confront the choices and circumstances that led to his becoming a looper. Joe is faced with decisions about how much his past should inform his present, and the impact that his present decisions are having on his future. Looper also raises the question as to whether knowing the future makes any difference in present decision-making. Is present happiness worth sacrificing the future? Someone else’s future? Is future happiness worth compromising the present?

William Wordsworth wrote that “the child is the father of the man.” Looper introduces the possibility that the man might be able to advise the father before he travels too far along the course the child has set. A middle aged Joe sits across the table from a younger Joe and pleads for the life he’s built in the future. He explains the folly of Joe’s current lifestyle and advocates for different choices. As a child Joe could not see the man he would become, but Joe has much more clarity concerning Cid’s future. He knows the man Cid will become unless something changes. While Joe may not be willing to act on his own behalf or on the behalf of his future self, Sara and Cid complicate his situation.

Joe finally must consider the impact of his own self-centered decisions on other people and on the world around him. The life of a looper is the polar opposite of the attitude expressed in Philippians 2:4,  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. The reach of Joe’s choices into the community where he presently lives and into what happens in the future to himself and to other people is greater than either version of Joe can imagine. Patterns and events of the past do shape who we are now, but do not obligate us to follow where they would lead us. The place our choices may have landed us now probably come with some immediate consequences and some of those consequences may stretch far into the future. According to Looper, we are not doomed to that inevitable future. Changing the present can reset the course of the future and minimize some of the damaging fallout that splatters into the lives of other people in both the present and the future. In its dark and elegant solution to Joe’s dilemma Looper  imparts another truth: changing course requires sacrifice.

None of us can earn grace or redemption, that sacrifice belongs to Jesus alone. The sacrifice that confronts each of us is how much of ourselves we are willing to crucify with Him. Looper made me think about what that means to my own past, present, and future self. And what it means to my present and future spheres of influence. Being crucified with Christ changes the course of the future by restructuring the present and redefining the past. That’s a pretty elegant solution on God’s part.

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