In the wake of digressions on time travel logic -- few founded, most misguided, all irrelevant -- herein the mythic level of metaphor and theme can be given breathing room to assume its rightful reign. There is a message both timely and eternal at the heart of Looper, as haunting is it is beautiful:
A man who hoards silver grows to step past his gold.
Its science-fiction narrative conceit is merely a springboard for a unique character dynamic. Just as young Joe must face his older self, so too must we face our future selves in every decision we make. (Hopefully never so dire for us as depicted for him.)
Old Joe is an extrapolated version of his character’s primary flaw: the isolated greed of personal attachment. Young Joe to his silver, and Old Joe to his murdered wife. A damning loneliness and spiritual emptiness lies in our refusal to let go. Furthering the immediacy and dramatic potency of his ultimate decision, their entire conflict acts as an externalization of his internal dilemma.
There is the beauty of Looper’s seemingly effortless structure. The concept itself fuels the interpretive connectivity of its own themes and ideas. By pitting a character, literally, against himself, the dramatic playground is opened up for thematic discussions and conflict-based metaphorical imagery to be brought naturally, inevitably to the fore. It is in this way that the pertinent mythological elements are delivered. Decisive character action demonstrably implies theme through an escalating conflict of ideas.
What is it that so changes him? What, exactly, does he save? The child he gives his life for, Cid, and his mother, Sara, are broken. Their damaged relationship, as dramatically extended to the world of the story, will grow into an ugly, mass-murdering threat. The thematic danger is not the terror of a future killer, but the imbalance of an unreconciled future. They are as isolated from each other as Joe is with his silver. His intervention in their lives allows for a mutually vital catharsis.
Cid parallels Joe’s own past, a yet untouched innocence for which he is still hopeful. Old Joe is the looming, unchanged future, frozen in his erred ways. Young Joe is the active present, still able to make a change and divert these circled paths. In his final moments of revelation, he does.
We must all close our loops by cutting off the cycles of behavior that birth our undesirable future selves. Blunderbuss to our hearts, we face them metaphorically every day as Joe literally faced his. Walk past the gold. Save the kid. Close the loop.