Masterwork pop-up, printed and bound in Cali, Columbia, 1984. Out-of-print.
Strangely, almost nothing. Both propaganda by death are desperate yet well-planned attempts to lure the West into a multi-regional war. A first and second attempt to set off WWIII, acts of provocation very similar to the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand one hundred years ago this year. The progression here is from dispersed terror group guest to an Islamic state, to claimed state-level government, however fleeting on these geographic terms, it has a source. The question becomes, why be lead into the first? And was it a feint, was the invasion of Iraq a distraction from the true targets? Fundamentalism within Saudi Arabia, Militancy from Pakistan. Strange, no? We attack a country that enforces sexual equality and religious secularism, true it is a Sunni totalitarian state (Iraq) yet so is a Sunni kingdom with oppressive laws for women and a legal definition of witchcraft that sometimes ends in a death sentence. Diplomacy increases in complexity, are the coming wars symmetric? If not, admit them, assign the internal conflict a name. The east-west divide between Saudi Arabia and pre-invasion Iraq. Something like detente or lynch-pin.
A recent incoherent op-ed by the distant architect of multiple military coups over democratically elected officials (including Pinochet over Allende), Kissinger now writes as if converted to the fantasy view of democracy of Bush 2, not the strern real politik he practiced when in office. The facts are: most world state borders of the 'developing world' are arbitrary, many designed for external colonial concerns, in the aftermath of war. To enforce most of them one needed enforcers, and that's what the West backed, not democratic or parlimentary systems. Each state, no matter its origins, needs a central bureaucratic authority. The fragmenting of power in Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and now Libya caused their collapse since they lacked properly defined transitions to power. It's time to teach global realities. A bureaucracy comes before all other realities. If one is shattered, then the country may shatter. Colin Powell's mythic words to his President have come true: "If you break it, you own it."
This taut exercise in Blockbuster reductionism-revisionism is the best film of the summer. Actors and gestures of the golden age of blockbusters meet their younger generation in flip-mode. Aliens's Bill Paxton graduates from grunt to sarge (the squad seems cloned private by private from the Sulaco's), while usual leader-like Cruise enters cowardly, praying he'll just survive the day. Restaging Normandy starring Joan of Arc over and over even loads a perverse comment on the immutability of anniversaries by way of timelessness. Here everyday is D-day. Edge's Joan is Rita, a name copped from Groundhog Day inhabited by an actor from a recent looping film, Emily Blunt, who managed to avoid any loops in Looper. Here in Tomorrow she's a recent looper herself. Although the filmmakers keep the plot as simple as possible, they let the overlap and gaps in the repeat let us fill in the blanks for much of the film. Certain mutations are seen on their first go around, others on the umpteenth, and that's how the weaving gets us, we don't know where we are in the loop numbers (and neither do the other actors). We're in Cruise's Private Cage's drama, whose keeping some kind of headcount, it's his 'film.' Unexplained arrivals are left just that, that's where the film's magic sits. When we piece together the logic, the audience guesses Cage can't succeed unless he goes off-the-grid: the humans (likewise us audience members at first) don't have the imagination to realize Cage's value vs. the alien Mimics inability to use the gift of their own being, and maybe the human adds the transporting, multiverse simultaneity. Maybe it's something about the infection: Cruise is bathed in mimic blood causing a human trigger, the dna, the cell life of his begins a repeating as a chain reaction of the poisonous meeting between both's composition, a 'broadcast' (remember, everyone who repeats is shown only in his proximity...his 'aura' is sustaining this new path). The resultant contrast, how Cage is treated on arrival at the first lair (far behind enemy lines, also involves a liquid, though it's Cage who chooses his, he drowns himself instead of allowing the Mimics to drain a slow death) contrasted against the hunt on him and her after stealing a choice weapon: Liman's stating pretty bluntly that innovation has enemies on both sides. Realizes the in-between is the only smart place to fight a war of time from.The Mimics feint their head honcho as a lure, it's their stopgap that Cage barely grasps the set-up in time. These touches like the Dam-lure verge on abstraction proving Liman's ability to slide underexplained phenomena into what seems to be a pretty straight story (despite the daily loop, the narrative pretends to be videogame simplistic). Creativity is about riding a particulary dangerous edge with unlimited outcomes. The best part is the cake-and-eat-it ending, which plays coldly impossible at first, but slowly worms around in the gray matter pushing a profoundly cinematic impact. The crescendo's Spielberg ape (from the very parallel War of the Worlds) is its funniest homage, you realize Cruise was meant to be reborn. It's some aura he's earned, and now it's more popular in export than stateside.
When will the scourge of 3-D post-conversion be over? This film is FAR SUPERIOR in 2-D.
Addendum: Somebody wrote and asked why Looper was never reviewed here...except in rare cases like Edge, overt time-travel flicks never seem to support their weight in ideas. For all the cleverness in Looper, each chess-move creates far more holes. Go to the basics in the story. If a young looper erases his escaped elderly version by dying (demo'd at the end), why create Old Seth's body-part subtraction game in the second act? Just kill him, right? You're not letting noseless Seth go off to finish out his life. But of course, that erases the film's choice gimmick of messaging-by-scar. Now take the ending at face value: if the 'Rainmaker' was so all-powerful, instead of his focused goal killing loopers in revenge, wouldn't he have just sent a team to head off his mom's death? Time is obviously mutable in the film's logic. The loopers that headline then become sub-plot players in a story centralized later on Mom-saving. The implications there are far more absurd than the play we're shown (and might have lead to a more adventurous film). But Johnson is wedded to his genre-stablizing version, with the self-Oedipal conflict posed by 12 Monkey's Willis vs. Young Joe strung out against a parody of Matrix-like 20th century crime tropes. Imagine a showdown using four timeframes converging instead of the three we're shown. That's the loop we should have seen breaking. A son that didn't need saving against a backdrop of two versions of the same person fighting for an identity, one of whom wanted to save that son. There's a far nuttier movie hiding in the dry logic of Looper. And beyond plot and structure, there's the retrograde females in the film: strippers, mothers, waitresses and idealized saviors. That's the residual effects of Lynch on the generation, a fifties view of gender stuck to millenial anxieties. This isn't Kubrick where women's roles are explored through male collapse, here they're ecclipsed. Johnson has the storytelling skills for the decade, he knows how to build ghastly tension, but his overall approach peels conservative, maybe even nostalgiac. And the trouble is it's both conscious: the time-travel expediency, and unconscious: the calcified gender roles.
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