Untangling the Time-lines and Paradoxes of Looper

by JoHarrington

The movie 'Looper' is one of the best releases of 2012. But its interwoven plot-lines of parallel universes and time travel have left some highly confused. Let me unravel them.

Please note that this article is chuck full of spoilers. Reading it before you've watched the film will really ruin that first viewing.

I wouldn't want that for anybody. 'Looper' is an amazing story. It has to be experienced in its entirety at least once.

So if you haven't had the pleasure, do yourself a favor and back away from this article now.

The rest of you come right on in. Consider this the nitty-gritty of 'Looper' explained!

Looper is a Powerful Story and Brilliant Movie

I watched Looper last night at the theater.  I went to bed thinking about Looper.  I woke up thinking about Looper

In the meantime I've already written my spoiler-free review of the movie; and now I'm writing another which delves more deeply into the story without worrying about not giving too much away.

It's safe to say that Looper is a tale that will get under your skin.  Anyone viewing it will worry about the plot (and plot-holes), like it's a sore in your mouth, until you have it straight.

This article is to help you (and I) to get it straight.  Please note that it's just one woman's take on the matter.  The internet is waking up to dozens of such deliberations.  You may contribute your thoughts too.

Looper on DVD


How Many Time-Lines are There in Looper?

I counted three major ones and dozens more which affected minor characters.

We watch the story unfold through the eyes of Young Joe.  Because Looper is told in a linear way (except for a brief side-story involving Old Joe in China), it feels like we're seeing just one time-line.

But even there it leaps at the mid-point into a parallel world.

Timeline One: Young Joe Successfully Closes the Loop

This is actually the storyline of Old Joe. We only briefly follow it and then only as a montage scene.

Here is how it plays out:

  1. Joe 1 goes to the field and receives his victim as normal.
  2. He shoots his victim, then finds the gold bars on the corpse's back.  Thus alerting him to the fact that he's just killed his older self.  The loop is closed.
  3. Joe 1 takes the money and lives out his years.
  4. He meets the (unnamed) lady who becomes his wife.
  5. She puts him through cold turkey and they live happily ever after until...
  6. ... the Rainmaker orders every old looper to be killed.
  7. The Gatmen arrive to capture Joe 1 but accidentally shoot his wife in the process.
  8. They burn down the house in the hope that will cover up the murder, as her tracker will have alerted the authorities.  (This is very bad in 2072, hence the need for loopers in the first place.)
  9. Joe 1 is taken to the time machine, cuffed and hooded.
  10. He is sent back to 2042 wearing his hood.
  11. Joe 2 (his younger self) kills him.   (Thus taking us back to bullet point one here.)

This time-line is clean and contained, leaving no immediate paradoxes for us to muse over. We can use it to focus on philosophical and psychological questions about the futility of their lives; and/or use it to fuel the debate about the death penalty instead.

However, there are alternative time-lines, which hive off at point 10.  Plus a very big paradox becomes apparent in light of details learned in later time-lines.

The Paradox Inherent in Looper's First Time-line

It would all be so neat and tidy, if that nasty Rainmaker didn't exist!

The Rainmaker ordered the deaths of the loopers. 

However, if Joe 1 is killed outright, closing the loop, then he doesn't go on a child-murdering rampage in this time-line.

If Joe 1 doesn't kill Sara Harrington, then little Cid doesn't flee the scene in trauma.  He doesn't get his jaw half blown away.

Therefore he doesn't grow up to become the Rainmaker; and he isn't therefore in a position to order Joe 2 to kill Joe 1.

The paradox is thus:

  • The Rainmaker orders the murder. The murder ensures that the Rainmaker isn't in a position to order the murder.

This could potentially be side-stepped by the fact that loops were closed before the Rainmaker came onto the scene.  A different Mafia boss could have made the call. 

However, this implies that we're already into a second time-line.  Old Seth has already mentioned the Rainmaker to Young Seth, by the time that Joe 2 is sent to kill Joe 1.

Joe 1 must, therefore, be hooded on that killing mat in full knowledge of the Rainmaker.  Yet his murder will cause that boss never to have existed.

Yet Joe 1 has to have been killed in 2072, or else all of those years of debauchery, followed by true love in China, will never have happened from 2042 onwards.

Do You Agree with my Reading of Time-Line One?

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No, because...
JoHarrington on 01/17/2013

You are completely right here. I was thinking of just the timelines shown, not the billions that weren't. Oh wow! That's even more fuel to muse upon, thanks!

Yuan Zhao on 01/17/2013

Joe kills his old self. Retires to a life of glory and debauchery, falls in love in China, yada yada. (this is NOT depicted in the flashback). He comes back, kills the two children but not Cid, who becomes the rainmaker, eventually calling for all loopers to die since they find out identifying info about him... (this is basically identical to what I just described except Cid is the rainmaker now, and this IS what was depicted in the flashback). He comes back again in same/similar fashion, and this is the movie. Three timelines -- Joe's loop is closed; he returns, and causes the Cid problem; then he returns again, and young Joe fixes the Cid problem. Again, we'll never know what the director intended but this illustrates my point of "how it first happened" and "how many loops there were before" is irrelevant; in this potential scenario, we only ever see in the movie timelines two or three -- timeline one exists because logically it must, but however he ended up being sent back, the bottom line is that as long as he is, this works. He could have been in a closed loop 10000000 times, and each time tried to escape his captors and failed, but only in the last two (the movie) managed to succeed and return uncuffed.

Or maybe, the second timeline as described above (aka the flashback in the movie), happens 1000000 times, each time with him managing to kill Sara, resulting in Cid being the Rainmaker and ordering Joe's being sent back, until finally, the 1000001th time, young Joe kills himself and stops old Joe.

I don't know if that makes sense, I imagine I explained it poorly. But I stumbled on your site half drunk, with my mind blown, and felt like responding.

I basically actually do agree with you, I just put no because "However, this implies that we're already into a second time-line" is not a problem at all.


Yuan Zhao on 01/17/2013

A different Mafia boss could have made the call explains it fully. Remember, loopers are frequently killed anyway once their loop is closed and services terminated. This could have simply been the case for Joe, thereby propagating the events that caused the second timeline to happen.

Think of time travel in this theoretical context this way -- we don't know how many loops (or how many different types of loops) occurred before the one(s) we get to see. This is kind of answering the question of how the first loop started or how they managed to deviate. It doesn't matter, it could have been just the first closed loop or 1000000 before that, at some point in one of them, a different course of events happened (Bruce Willis, in love and rage, beast modes his captors), leading to the second timeline.

This way, it kind of trivializes the initial loops, but that's okay because that's all they are -- loops of the same/similar events (at least the same initial and end points), and time travel by nature and definition trivializes past potentialities by replacing them with new ones.

So basically, what could have happened is that Joe is just plained fired (I'm not saying this IS what happened; time-travel is the definitions of ifs and buts and the fun part of analyzing this movie is acknowledging the possibilities, of which this is one).

(part 2 coming)

Yes, because...
theshakl on 05/11/2013

nailed it. It just seems to glaring of a paradox for me to really enjoy this film. Back to the Future has one like it in the 2nd one but.. at least that's a comedy so.. I'm willing to let it go and just enjoy the film for what it is

Timeline Two: Young Joe Doesn't Close the Loop and is Killed Shortly Afterwards

This is the time-line which forms the turning point in the middle of the movie. Previously we have been in time-line one; after this interlude, we will be in time-line three.

Here is how it plays out:

  1. Joe 4 (who is the same as Joe 2 up until point 10 of the first time-line) goes to the field and receives his victim as normal.
  2. Joe 3 (who is the same as Joe 1 up until point 10 of the first time-line) isn't wearing a hood.
  3. Joe 3 had overpowered his captors in front of the time machine.
  4. He voluntarily came back, so that he could kill the Rainmaker. His rationale was that without the Rainmaker, the loops wouldn't be closed. Therefore he would reverse time to before his capture and his wife would return to life.
  5. Joe 4 hesitates at the kill, because there is something unusual in the fact of the victim not being hooded.
  6. Joe 3 looks up and Joe 4 recognizes him as his older self.
  7. Joe 4 - with the example of Seth before him - raises his gun anyway to complete the kill.
  8. Joe 3 is ready for this and throws a gold bar at his younger self, thus injuring him.
  9. Joe 3 races off the mat and punches Joe 4, knocking him unconscious.
  10. Joe 3 takes some paper from Joe 4's van and leaves him a message to take the next train out and run. Joe 3 then takes the van.
  11. Joe 4 regains consciousness, but returns to the city. 
  12. Joe 3 spots him there and bemoans the fact that his younger self is an idiot for not running.
  13. Joe 4 returns to his apartment to collect his silver.  But finds Gatmen there.
  14. Joe 4 fights with Kid Blue and shuts him into the safe under the floorboards.
  15. A second Gatman walks in and a gun-fight ensues.
  16. Joe 4 falls from a window onto a car. 
  17. The Gatman above shoots him dead, thus taking Joe 3 out of existence simultaneously.

In terms of the movie's story-line, this is the only moment when we have an actual jump.  As that time-line collapses, the protagonists (and the audience) are immediately taken back to the killing field.

Time-line three follows this story precisely, but deviates at point 17.

The Paradoxes Inherent in Looper's Second Time-line

Events simply can't play out as they do in time-line two, so causality pings back to eradicate it.

Where do we even begin here?  The only real saving grace is that time repairs itself as unsustainable.

I believe that this is deliberate.  As this section is one huge paradox, there is nothing that could happen but it being erased from existence. Hence the apparently clumsy leap back to the killing mat.

To spell it out, Joe 4 is only killed because Joe 3 wasn't killed.  Joe 4 has to kill Joe 3 in order for the older man to exist.  Joe 3 has just enjoyed thirty years of life based on the fact that he did kill his older self.

As Joe 4 is killed shortly afterwards, then Joe 3 would have been killed at the same time.  He wouldn't have lived long enough to be in the field.

If he wasn't in the field, then he couldn't have over-powered Joe 4, setting off a chain of events which leads to Joe 4 being killed.

  • Paradox One:  Joe 3 died when he was Joe 4, so can't be sent back to close the loop. If he's not sent back, Joe 4 will not die.
  • Paradox Two:  Joe 4 is killed because Joe 3 escaped.  Joe 3 didn't escape, because Joe 3 just had thirty years of life, memories and marriage stating that he didn't escape.
  • Paradox Three:  Joe 3 is patently from the first time-line, as he has those memories. Joe 4 is from the second time-line, as he will never have those memories. 

However, the second time-line serves to establish the rules within this time traveling universe. This, I believe, is why it was inserted in the first place.

The second time-line should be viewed as the first time-line becoming very flexible, until the stretch can no longer be sustained and it collapses in on itself.  Joe 3 only exists as long as there is still a chance that Joe 4 can kill him.

This is why they are able to interact despite seemingly being from two different time-lines. 

Do You Agree with my Reading of Time-Line Two?

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The Rules of Time-Travel in the Movie Looper

We know from the second time-line (and Seth's sub-plot) that history can be rewritten.

While there is still a chance that Joe 4 can kill Joe 3, then the older man still has his memories. Those thirty years can still play out.

The further they deviate from Joe 3's reality, then the more cloudy his memories become. He has to concentrate upon his wife's image in order to remember details, like how they met. 

Presumably, if Joe 4 hadn't been killed, but had closed his loop, then this time-line would have merged with the first one and all would have been in place, according to the laws of Physics as laid out in this universe.

However, irrevocable damage - such as scarring or death - will rewrite the time-line completely.  If it's sustainable, for example a non-fatal gunshot wound, then the older self will merely develop a scar.  His memories will shift to incorporate the new events, but they will always have been there.

If it's not sustainable, because the paradox is too big (older self causing the death of the younger self, which means that the older self could never have existed to cause the death of the younger self), then the time-line folds in on itself.

It ceases to exist and merely deposits the characters back at the point where the deviation from the 'norm' occurred.  (Presuming that there is a norm, in a universe where alternative lines are well and truly established by now!) 

The Twenty-One Time-Lines of Seth

The rules of time-travel, in the Looper universe, are most blatantly high-lighted in what happens to Seth.

In one of the most disturbingly brilliant, utterly memorable and apparently paradoxical sequences in the movie, we slip through at least twenty-one different time-lines to watch events play out.

It is presented as linear, but it's not.

At the time of watching it, my hand was over my mouth, eyes wide and staring at the horror. 

It's only in retrospect, putting it all together, that you realize that most of these time-lines must have collapsed in on themselves.

To a certain point, they were merely rewriting the first, so ultimately could have merged.

Here are all twenty-one time-lines.  Remember that they don't necessarily have to split into the one which follows, but the one which precedes has to have occurred.  Each time-line is therefore a rewriting of the one before.

  1. Seth closes the loop.  He has thirty years of life and returns to be killed by his younger self. Consider this the main story that is being stretched by the subsequent ones.  To all extents and purposes, this IS Seth's time-line right here. The alternative horrors never happened.
  2. Older Seth escapes intact.  We don't know what happens to younger Seth, other than he must have escaped too.  Until his older self reaches the railway lines, there's not a mark on him.
  3. Younger Seth is caught and an address is etched onto his forearm.
  4. Younger Seth is caught, an address is etched onto his forearm and he loses a finger.

Timelines 5-13 are all very similar, just different fingers. Older Seth watches them disappearing one by one. If they were the same time-line, they would have all gone at the same time.

  1. Younger Seth is caught. An address is etched onto his arm and his fingers are chopped off. He also has his nose cut off.
  2. Younger Seth is caught. In addition to all of the above, his ankle is also broken.  By now, we are truly into the realm of paradox and frankly this particular time-line makes no sense at all.

    It would be expected that, in thirty years of life, the older Seth's ankle would have healed. It shouldn't have affected his ability to drive a car so far down the line.
  3. Younger Seth is caught, all plays out as above, but his leg is amputated. This naturally removes the issue of the broken ankle, which was always unsustainable as something which affected the future.  So let's assume that time-line fifteen merely disappeared from the universe, in the same way that Joe 4's death was also erased by the laws of time travel.

    This amputation also causes our first major paradox.  Seth has to have had a prosthetic limb. If he hadn't then he wouldn't have been able to stand on the mat, as we saw at the execution scene. Therefore he wouldn't be stumbling into the road now.

    If his prosthetic limb had been taken away by the mob, then he wouldn't have been able to run away, thus causing this situation in the first place.
  4. All of the above plays out, but now younger Seth has his second leg amputated. All of the notes from the previous time-line apply here too.
  5. All of the above plays out, but now Seth additionally has one arm amputated.  This kicks in a second paradox, as he couldn't now have his arms handcuffed behind his back, as he saw in the execution scene.

    If he had a prosthetic limb, which allowed that, then his arm wouldn't suddenly disappear now. All of the issues from the legs disappearing are still current here too.
  6. As above, but now younger Seth also had his other arm amputated.  Every paradox from previous entries still applies.
  7. All of the mutilations from the previous time-lines take place, but younger Seth additionally has his tongue removed.  This may render it difficult for older Seth to have effectively hummed the song, which tipped younger Seth off to his identity.  That immediately takes us back to point one, where the loop was closed.
  8. Time is so altered to the point where it's unrealistic that older Seth goes to the address in Wire Street, and he is killed with a bullet on the doorstep. 

The Paradoxes Inherent in the Seth Sub-Plot

Why did Seth look so shocked, each time another part of his body disappeared? They had each been gone for thirty years!

The big paradox here being that younger Seth could never have lived out the life that brought older Seth to the doorstep in the first place.

He may not have been able to hum the song without his tongue.  Therefore he would have been killed outright without getting to the point of his tongue being cut out.

If his prosthetic limbs had been removed, as they patently were by then; he couldn't have run from the killing mat nor driven a car.

If they were intact, then why on Earth would he have gone to the address to be killed?

None of this is new to him, in this time-line. It all happened thirty years ago.  This same point could be asked at every one of the alternative time-lines. 

For example, in time-line fourteen, Seth had had no fingers or nose since 2042.  He had lived with an address scarred into his arm for the same period of time. Nothing else ever happened to him.

He got away. He knows that he got away, because no more mutilations occurred; and because he has now fled from the killing mat.  He stood ON the killing mat with that address on his arm.  He knew that he would escape, because it had already happened.

Seth, in 2072, would have no reason whatsoever to hot-wire a car and travel to the address in time-line fourteen.  Therefore it's a complete mystery as to why he does.  If he was that suicidal, he should have stayed on the mat and saved himself the hassle of having been mutilated for the past thirty years.

The Rules of Time Travel in Looper's Universe as Shown by Seth's Sub-Plot

Dismemberment now will result in dismemberment in the future. Death now will cause a nasty loop in the time causality.

It took a much shorter time to watch the Seth sequence play out than it did to read my analysis of it.  However, it was an important and highly memorable scene.

The impact was necessary, even if we did have to rush through twenty-one different (and strategically unrealistic) time-lines to see it as a linear plot.  Seth's sub-plot helps to underline the options open to Joe during the second part of the movie.

Some of these are actually used.  For example, cutting yourself in the present day will leave your older self with a scar.  Seth was left with an address etched into his arm, so was Joe.

Dismemberment, in any form, will result in your older self similarly being dismembered.

The Seth story raises a huge question - why didn't the Gatmen just kill the younger Seth, instead of mutilating him? 

That's answered in Joe's second time-line. Because a looper's untimely death will result in the older, retired looper ceasing to exist too.

The time-line would just erase itself and place both Seths back into the courtyard at the execution scene.  We would then be caught in a vicious causality cycle each lasting just a few hours.  Seth runs; his younger self is killed.  Seth runs; his younger self is killed.  Seth runs, and so on.

Even in 2072, time-travel isn't an exact science.  It was immediately out-lawed.  Maybe nobody knows what would happen if the flexibility of time was so abused. Maybe they are too scared of the potential issues to find out.

Also the loop wouldn't be cleanly closed (according to the rules of the mob, not Physics now); and a bone fide murderer would have been created.  Someone would have to kill the young looper, whose birth has been registered and who exists in that time-line.

Remember, until now, the victims are from the future, hence they don't necessarily exist in the past. Therefore their murder can't be prosecuted as murder.  No official existence, no crime. Those making the rules are in the future, where killing is very problematic.  They are making rules to deal with issues which similarly don't yet exist in the past.

Despite their jobs as assassins, the gangsters don't like to have murders on their hands which could possibly be treated as such by the courts.

Do You Agree with my Reading of Seth's Sub-Plot?

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No, because...
sharif on 02/25/2013

If they killed young seth, then the old seth which is currently in the past would just disappear.... like his fingers disappeared...
so if older seth disappeared in the past there is no body or crime that existed in the future....
i think that was a loophole in the movie, help me figure it out

Mike on 10/17/2012

Seth is an interesting addition.
This could prove in the scenario, or be a reminder to us, that no other Looper can change theri timeline - only Joe can.
Which again proves the Hypothesis that Joe controls everything and is the Rainmaker.

JoHarrington on 10/17/2012

Ok, I can see that.

Mike on 10/17/2012

Once altered surgically it changes his timeline.
Once old Seth is killed that rsetores his original timeline.

JoHarrington on 10/17/2012

But wouldn't that have instantly rendered older Seth healed too? He's the same bloke 30 years on.

Mike on 10/16/2012

It was done surgically and under anethesia, all limbs reatatched after the fact.
If it can be done now it certainly can be done in the future to a greater extent.
That is what I thought instantly in this scene.

Time-line Three: Young Joe Doesn't Close the Loop and is Subsequently Saved by Old Joe

This is the time-line that we are watching throughout the second half of the movie.

Here's how it plays out:

  1. Joe 6 (who is the same as Joe 4 until point 17 of the second time-line) lies unconscious on a car roof, after falling from his apartment fire escape.
  2. Joe 5 shoots the Gatman before he can fatally shoot Joe 6.  He then drags his younger self to safety.
  3. Joe 5 uses a computer to search for a birth date and hospital code. These are clues to the Rainmaker's identity, in 2042, which had been discovered by retired loopers in 2072.  Joe 5 has the numbers written on his hand.
  4. Joe 6 carves 'Beatrix' onto his fore-arm.  (If we really want to complicate things more than usual, then we should be into time-line four now.  Number three would continue with that clue not being scarred onto Joe 5's arm.  By time-line four, we have to believe that Joe 5 would have arrived with that scarring. He should have mentioned it in his letter to Joe 6, back in the killing field.)
  5. Joe 5 meets Joe 6 in the diner.  They share a meal, get into a scuffle, and Joe 5 tells his younger self all about the Rainmaker.  He also shows him the map.
  6. The Gatmen turn up and both Joes flee for their lives.
  7. Joe 6 tears off a corner of the map with the numbers on it and a farm encircled.  He visits the farm and meets Sara and Cid Harrington.  He realises that this is the Rainmaker.  Every scene there plays out.
  8. Joe 5 goes to the other two addresses on his map.  In both homes are children born on the same day and in the same hospital as Cid Harrington.  Either one of them could have been the Rainmaker, but they're not.  Joe 5 knows this, because he is still in this time-line. If he had killed the Rainmaker, he would be back home with his wife in China.
  9. Joe 5 is captured by Kid Blue at the second address. Coincidentally, this was the home of his showgirl girlfriend Suzie. He killed her child.  (Thus raising the juicy sub-plot question - did he just kill his OWN child?) Kid Blue was staking out the property in the hope of catching Joe 6 instead.
  10. Joe 5 is taken to the headquarters of Abe and the Gatmen.  He switches into action hero mode and kills everyone there, except Kid Blue. This latter is an error, as Joe 5 had left him for dead.
  11. Joe 6, along with Sara and Cid, have just seen off Jesse (another Gatman) from the farm.  While Sara packs to flee with Cid, Joe 6 awaits the assassins on the way.
  12. Joe 5 arrives with a van filled with silver bars and tries to persuade Joe 6 to run away.
  13. Kid Blue arrives on Seth's motorbike and attempts to kill Joe 6.  Joe 6 kills him instead.
  14. Joe 5 (inexplicably given the consequences to himself of Joe 6 getting killed) has used the very real smokescreen to stalk down the track leading to the farmhouse.
  15. Cid uses his telekinesis to cause their truck to rear up, hence saving himself and Sara being shot by Joe 5.  The two flee the wreckage by running across the field.
  16. Joe 5 attempts to shoot Cid and damages the boy's jaw.  (Not exactly having half of his jaw blown away, as the description of the Rainmaker would have us believe at the beginning of the movie.)
  17. Sara stands in the way of the gun, preparing to die to save her son.  Cid panics and lets out a tremendous telekinetic shock.  This lifts both Sara and Joe 5 off their feet and could have resulted in their deaths.
  18. Sara calms Cid down, saving them from the telekinesis related death.
  19. Joe 5 attempts to shoot Sara, so he can get to Cid.
  20. Joe 6 realizes that events have transpired to create the Rainmaker from the raw materials of Cid.  He deduces that it's himself who is the ultimate cause of the massacre in the future, which has so effected them now.
  21. Joe 6 can't kill Joe 5 from that distance, because he's got a looper's gun.  As was previously established, this has a limited range.
  22. Joe 6 kills himself, thus wiping Joe 5 out of existence.
  23. Sara finds and comforts Cid.  The Rainmaker is never created.  The loops never have to be closed. Presumably Joe 5 is back in China with his wife. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Was Looper's Climax a Genius Ending?

I personally think that it was, if you follow the film's internal logic.

Many people have frowned at the ending - as spectacular and neat as it was - because they don't believe that it follows the movie's internal logic.

It does.

When something goes too awry to sustain in a time-line, time pings everyone back to the moment when it deviated.  The second time-line is a great example of this.  No paradox could occur, if we went back to the field and gave Joe 4 another chance to kill Joe 3.

What happens here isn't to do with either Joe's time-lines.  We're actually in Cid Harrington's time-line now.  A greater paradox will be created by trying to turn Cid into the Rainmaker, than by anything else.

Cid growing to be a fine and upstanding member of society will immediately wipe out all manner of abuses of time.  Ninety percent of the looper murders will disappear for a start.  Time has flowed down the neatest, most linear path it can find.  It's a little like a river going around a mountain instead of through it.

We have to assume that two parallel histories are now running side by side.  In the first, Joe closes the loop, lives out his thirty years and gets killed by his younger self.

In the second, we have a world where the loopers never existed.  Cid is never traumatized by them.  That patch on his face must have been caused by something else, as Sara puts him to sleep at the end of the movie.

These are the two tidiest time-lines for the causality laws to snap into, given the unsustainability of events as prompted by Joe 6's suicide.

The Plot-Hole Inherent in Looper's Third (or Fourth) Time-line

All Joe 6 actually did was to remove the Rainmaker from the equation. Therefore the scale and scope of looper killings would diminish, but not go away.

The Rainmaker was the biggest and scariest of the gangsters, but he wasn't the only one.  A gun was put into Joe's hand before Cid was even born.

If this hadn't been the case, then the ending would have been even more perfect.  It was possibly Cid who worked out time travel in the first place. 

He's shown as being precociously intelligent for his age.  He can invent things, like the little frogs with which Joe and Sara communicate during their watch. His telekinesis may also be a factor in his interest in all things Physics related.

Perhaps he uncovered the laws of time travel specifically so he could go on a murderous rampage.  In 2072, that's a difficult thing, as people are nano-tracked.  He needed a way to dispose of the bodies. 

It's just the sort of thing that a genius of Cid's capabilities would devise, particularly if he was as emotionally and mentally damaged as the Rainmaker appears by repute to have been.

Unfortunately, it wasn't him.  We were told at the beginning of the movie that the Rainmaker seemed to come from nowhere.  He entered the five cities, where presumably the mob had time travel, and used his terrifying power to take over the criminal gangs there.  Then he closed the loops.  All of them.

It was a murder spree born out of revenge, because it was a looper who killed Sara.

The climax of the film renders it so that none of this happened.  But Joe is still a looper.  A mob boss will one day still order that loop to be closed.  The older Joe will still want to stay with his wife.

The whole film could still happen again, but with the older Joe going after a different Mafia boss.  Couldn't it?

Otherwise, we've simply returned to the paradox that is evident in the first time-line.

Do You Agree with my Reading of Time-Line Three/Four?

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Yes, because...
Mike on 10/17/2012

If every Looper could alter their timeline then the movie would be infinite.
Only the Rainmaker can alter the timelines.
Therefore Cid has to be Joe and is the Rainmaker.

I Still Think that Looper is a Brilliant Movie

It's had me considering the intricacies of the plot all night; and it's kept me analyzing and writing this article all day.

I love films which do that!  For all its apparent plot-holes and paradoxes (and the moments when it deviates off its own internal logic (I'm looking at you Seth)), it's still a really entertaining movie. 

In fact, those paradoxes and plot-holes are what is keeping me musing on the subject even now!

Updated: 05/17/2013, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 10/17/2012

I really need to see this movie again, with your observations in mind. I think you're onto something here.

mike on 10/17/2012

Imagine this is your dream - only you can change the outcome.
No other looper has the ability to change the outcome of the timeline.
Only one and that is Joe - therefore Joe must be Cid and the Rainmaker, changing the timeline like a bad dream till it comes out right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

JoHarrington on 10/17/2012

I really like how you think. Like I said, I was almost there anyway, but you've filled in some blanks. I can see this as being the hidden sub-plot, most definitely. In fact, it would nicely tie up a paradox.

But wouldn't it be assumed that Joe already knew the farmhouse and Sara. Older Joe also wouldn't need to go on a baby slaughtering mission, in order to track down the infant rainmaker.

I also wondered about Abe's younger self. For much of the film, I assumed that it was Kid Blue, but then it couldn't have been.

Mike on 10/17/2012

So if the his supposed mom taught him how to control his powers than Joe could be Cid.
But his mom is not his mom as the boy says. He is too smart not to know the truth, smart enough to make a timemachine in the future?
Knowing his true path he returns as Joe with Abe to the past?
Abe found him on the street and put a gun in his hand - perhaps brought him back from the future also?
Where is Abe's past self?
Knowing Joe's first path he returns to fix the future again?

JoHarrington on 10/17/2012

You know, I spent a lot of this movie convinced that Joe was the Rainmaker, then shifted that view with the introduction of Cid. Even then, I briefly thought that Cid was Joe as a kid, until the whole telekinesis storyline kicked in. Are you suggesting that I should have run with that one?

I hadn't noticed the dirt on the shoes/not on the shoes thing, nor the baby crying. I so need to see this movie yet again! Would you elaborate please?

I love your conclusion. That is even more delicious than my own!

Mike on 10/16/2012

Other elements?
The rainmaker has never been seen in the future does he exist?
The dirt on the shoes as opposed to Joes clean shoes as noticed by the boy.
The boys future certainly looks like Joes as invisioned my him.
The baby crying?

The rainmaker is Joe and experimenting with his own timeline to fix the future replaying it over and over till he gets it right.
The conundrum of the loop.

JoHarrington on 10/07/2012

I would definitely, definitely recommend it. I need you to watch it, in fact! Then we can discuss it!

Paul on 10/07/2012

Having not read too far into this article it's certainly persuaded me to watch it!

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