Looper is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. Don’t let what follows lead you to think that I felt it unoriginal. Because it was highly original. Go see it and you’ll be richly rewarded. And yet it’s amazing how well we can play Mad Libs with this newer movie and The Terminator. Spoiler alert — stop now if you don’t want Looper spoiled for you.
In the future, a group of cold-hearted violent characters (self-aware machines; criminals led by the Rainmaker) are responsible for a death campaign against another group of characters who are significantly responsible for the first set of characters being able to do what they do (people who created the machines before the machines became self-aware and saw people as a threat; Loopers who are hit men for the criminals but against whom the Rainmaker wants vengeance). The second group becomes engaged in fighting back.
In that future, one side of the battle (the machines; the Loopers) discovers that the other side would not be engaged so effectively in the battle were it not for the existence of one particularly effective male leader on that other side (John Connor; the Rainmaker). Using time travel, someone with information about that leader (the Terminator; Old Joe) goes back in time with the hope of using murder to prevent that leader from growing up to ever become such a powerful opponent. Once back in time, the time traveller uses the limited information he has (the name of John Connor’s mother; the code identifying the Rainmaker’s date and hospital of birth) to search a contemporary database (the Los Angeles phone book; Kansas City hospital records) and learns that there are three possible candidates who match the information he has about his target’s identity. He decides to kill them all, just to be safe.
Another character (Kyle Reese; Young Joe), a member of the group upon whom the death campaign is being carried out (humans; Loopers) and who also has a strong plot connection to time travel (travels back in time himself; kills people the future criminals send back in time to him), must stop the murderous time traveller, otherwise all will be lost in his own life and in more far-reaching ways as well (his beloved Sarah Connor dies and humans will lose the war; his life is ruined, he’ll be killed by his employers should they find him, and as it will turn out at the end of the movie he’d otherwise be complicit in the very creation of the Rainmaker who ruins the life the older version of himself first has and doesn’t want to lose).
The true target out of the three, the one whose destiny the murderer wishes to prevent (John Connor; Cid), has a mother whose name is pronounced Sara (Sarah Connor; Sara). Using the same information possessed by the murderer, the hero who wishes to stop the murderer tracks down the correct target. At first Sara is wary of this potentially violent stranger, but he soon proves to her that he wants to help, for their mutual benefit. Soon enough, as they experience threats together, the hero and Sara develop a strong connection. They end up having sex. The hero assumes a significant fatherly connection to the boy destined to grow up to become the great leader (Kyle is John Connor’s biological father; Young Joe looks out for Cid and wants to avert his murder and support his ongoing well being).
The murderer, though, is an extremely skilled killer and will stop at nothing, so strong is his objective. Even when faced with a building full of armed opponents in black uniforms (police; criminals in the same organization as the Loopers), including a leader who had earlier had an ambiguously friendly/adversarial connection to the hero (Lt. Traxler who like Kyle wants to protect Sarah but is concerned that Kyle may himself be dangerous; Abe who wants to continue to help Young Joe but ended up at odds with him over Seth’s problems), the murderer is amazingly able to do away with them all so that nothing will stand in the way between him and his goal.
Nearing the final confrontation, Sara is trying to get away with a male fellow passenger (Kyle; Cid) in a truck. When the killer arrives, circumstances cause the truck to flip over and land on its top. Soon, the killer is attempting to kill Sara as a key step in achieving his mission (Sarah’s death will prevent John Connor from being born; Sara’s death gets her out of the way so Old Joe can pursue Cid in the field). However, the hero sacrifices his own life so as bring about the killer’s death (Kyle sets off an explosive while right next to the Terminator, weakening the Terminator enough for Sarah to finish it; Young Joe shoots himself so as to prevent Old Joe’s existence and make him disappear) while also saving Sara and ensuring that she will be able to raise her son to be a good and worthy person (John Connor will become the strong leader of the human resistance; Cid will learn to control his powers and will not become the Rainmaker out of vengeance).