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'Looper': The ending explained

'Looper' has a lot of sci-fi twists. Here's a walk-through of how the time travel in the film worked.

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When Old Joe (Bruce Willis) arrives, Young Joe is confronted by a possible version of himself that understands the world much differently; Old Joe (as seen in montage) has been down the path Young Joe is fighting so fiercely to go down – Old Joe knows how empty it ultimately is, until you find love. Real love. Old Joe had it for a brief stint of time until his past came back to haunt him (Loopers’ deaths are predetermined, remember?) and cost him the love of his life, as well. Old Joe is fighting for love – and he too wants to “get his,” no matter what the cost.

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To Old Joe, the person responsible for taking what was his is someone named the Rainmaker, who is basically the all-powerful telekinetic Hitler of 2074, controlling everything in society from the government to the citizenry to the mobs and their operations. Old Joe’s intel (flimsy as it is) states that it was the Rainmaker who called for the retired loopers to start having their loops closed wholesale – and therefore was responsible for shattering Old Joe’s happiness. Old Joe’s plan, therefore, was to infiltrate the past, locate the Rainmaker (based on hospital records) when he is a young boy, kill him, spare himself (and, you know, maybe the world) a lot of darkness and heartache. Only, Old Joe has three names on a list (flimsy intel) – three children – who could be telekinetic Hitler, and therefore he must kill all three. Old Joe’s ambition for personal satisfaction is clearly exponentially worse than Young Joe’s.

Young Joe lands on a farm owned by Sara (Emily Blunt), a low-level telekinetic who is mother to a genius-level (and frighteningly powerful) telekinetic child named Cid (Pierce Gagnon), who will CLEARLY one day be the Rainmaker. Young Joe has that vulnerable side and heart opened up by the hard-luck story of Cid and Sara – especially Cid, whose story of violence and loss at a young age is so much like Young Joe’s own story. Even when Cid inadvertently blows up a gatman (Garrett Dillahunt), and Young Joe knows this kid is telekinetic Hitler, the compassion he sees Sara showing her son, and the effect it has, marks for Young Joe the difference between becoming men like him (and baby-killing future him), and possibly becoming what Young Joe secretly always wanted to be: a better kind of man.

However, murder-spree Old Joe is too far gone to turn back. When he finally tracks Young Joe to Sara’s farm, it becomes clear that Old Joe’s selfish ambition is the exact incident that ironically enough creates The Rainmaker; in Old Joe’s timeline (more on that later), rumor has it that as a boy, the Rainmaker saw his mother murdered by a looper and had part of his jaw shot off: horrific acts Old Joe nearly commits.

But Old Joe’s alteration of time means that there’s a possibility for more than one path – so when Young Joe finds himself in a moment where his violent ways can’t save the day, he makes a choice to not be like Old Joe and actually give up his all-important ambition to hold on to “what’s his.” He removes himself (and all the bad Old Joe’s done) from the equation by killing himself, thereby possibly sparing a lot more people times of pain and darkness under the Rainmaker’s reign (presuming Cid grows up to be a healthier, nicer, all-powerful guy).

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