Looper: A Small Portrait of Silver
The movie Looper (Rian Johnson) begins with Joseph Gordon Levitt, awaiting his next assassination, standing in front of a time portal. As his victim gets closer, a tunnel swooshing grows as if from above. Joe stands, pointing his shotgun. The victim from the future arrives, and Joe shoots him with a shotgun. He walks over, unzips the body, and pulls out his payment: silver bullion.
Per the movie’s plot, since it is nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future, murder victims get sent back into the past so that they might be disposed. A crime syndicate evidently owns all of the silver bullion, and illegally transports their victims back to their looper’s in order to be rid of the evidence.
Joe is a looper. A specialized assassin for the future, in our present. Joe’s character covets, loves and desires his silver. As he explains why he does his job, he nearly hisses to “collect my silver.”
In the US of Looper, the scenery is that of squalor and wealth disparity. Joe, however, serving the Silver Users, lives in luxury, his silver piling up. What makes him so different from the rest of the population? His genetic aberration: he can travel through time; hence, he is a looper.
The problem with being a looper is that it exposes you to risk from the laws of the future. It is illegal to time travel in the future, and the loopers are the most basic witnesses against their criminal masters. And so, they must be taken out.
And so, in the future, all looper’s get sent back to the past for their execution. A looper must one day kill himself. On that day, he is freed from his looping contract, free to enjoy the next thirty years and his silver stack until he is taken out to the dump of the past and killed unknowingly by his former self. For this job, the pay is 3,200 ounces of gold in the form of 400oz bars (or so it seems). That is about $5,440,000 in today’s gold terms. Joe goes on and stacks serious silver holdings, killing the “garbage” of the future. Ironically, this will one day be him too.
A looper is like a near-future cowboy walking the line between parallel universes. Joe lusts after his silver, killing for it along the way. It represents to him both freedom and power. At some point for Joe, it became all that mattered to him. He turned on his relationships for the devil’s metal, forgetting the ultimate tenet for each stacker: non-violence in the pursuit of accumulation. The end-goal? To undermine the powers-that-be and live free.
It’s about five times in the first ten minutes silver is shown (seemingly in kilo bars). As the plot builds, it is an onscreen orgy of Joe’s elucidation of a looper’s life, and images of the 10 percent’s daily: killing, stacking, partying and counting down the days until one’s contract is up.
Joe’s world collides with an existential crisis.
His buddy doesn’t kill his future self, and his future self tells him a horror story of the future. In a metaphorical scene, a portrait that shows Joe values relationships as much as the commodity for which he kills (AG-47), Joe hides his buddy amid his silver stack under a rug in the wood floorboard.
This, it is threatened, will cost him. His “mob boss in a robe” from the future (Jeff Daniels) doesn’t threaten “break his fingers.” Nope – he knows him too well. Instead, he talks about Joe’s soft spot: his silver stack. The mob overlord knows he has been stacking. This isn’t against the law, mob boss assures him. Joe is stacking to go overseas, and everybody knows. In fact, it’s smart, mob boss tells him, to stack that silver. In fact, the mob boss in a robe wants to know why Joe has chosen France. He suggests China is a much better idea. Joe says that he is going to France. The mob boss, annoyed, ripostes: Go to China! I’m from the future.
In the end, the point of Joe’s kidnapping down to mob boss’s office must be returned to fore: But if Joe does not turn on his friend, then he will lose half his silver stack.
Silver or friendship – that is the question for Joe. Does he turn on the purest of belongings: a trusted relationship in the pursuit of stuff and things?
For people outside of the looper circle, silver comes with strings…one of Joe’s acquaintances does not want to touch it, for “that stuff’s got strings.” Is silver not okay to have except for the cronies of the criminal masters of the universe of the future?
Many, in the world of looper, would prefer services rendered over silver strings.
Before too long, Joe gets a first-hand lesson in the strings tied to stacking silver bullion. He fails to kill himself, and so he’s gotta bail. But, the silver strings are that the silver’s gotta be left behind in the event of a quick getaway.
Or does it?
Throughout the film Looper, there is a certain refrain: that the man in the robe, the mob boss, gives looper’s what is rightfully theirs. A begging question is, are the characters referring to the gun or to the silver?
Some might consider Looper a form of propaganda known as predictive programming. In my opinion, the process of similarity between film and reality is often quite different. That is not to say there does not exist on television and in the cinema blatant psychological scrambling. But, oftentimes, what we see on the big screen is an organic script from a hip mind. Of course Hollywood has its politics, and one has got to play the game. But, what we see in Looper, with its use of the poor man’s gold, is a writer in Rian Johnson very much in touch with the unfolding of the present, and the wealth relationships of the future.
I highly recommend the film, as well as Rian’s other two films, Brick and Brother’s Bloom.