In the Loop: The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (2021, directed by Ali LeRoi)

  • Time until the loop begins: About 12 minutes
  • The cause of the loop: Tunde is shot by police officers during a traffic stop
  • Number of time loops: 6*
  • Lessons learned: That’s maybe too simple for this movie

In the Loop logoThe Obituary of Tunde Johnson announces what it’s about immediately, even from the title. Tunde, a gay, Black teenager, is killed by police. We quickly meet Tunde, realize what he’s about, and then we see two laughing police officers shoot him during a traffic stop. (I admire how quickly this movie gets to starting the loop — there’s not a lot of set-up here.)

This was more gorgeous than I expected. It’s rooted in a masterful and honest performance by Steven Silver as Tunde. It’s definitely making a statement but it weaves in those things so well and uses the entire concept of a time loop beautifully.

No matter what Tunde does — whether he does the right thing or the wrong thing — he is killed by the police. And clearly, there’s a lot of privilege — his family has money, he goes to prep school — but as he said, he’s gay and Black and for too many people, that means he’s less than human. I don’t even think that we see him survive at the end is because he got everything “right” — which seems to be the outcome of too many time loop movies. He just managed to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have some complaints — Tunde’s friend Marley (Nicola Peltz) is kind of vapid and terrible and doesn’t seem like the sort who’d hang out with some like Tunde (the movie hand-waves some of this away that they’ve been friends for a long time). His love interest, Soren (Spencer Neville), is likewise awful and boring (even just beyond being a lacrosse-playing white boy with a conservative commentator for a dad). Some of the performances could have been better. But Stanley Kalu’s script is remarkable and Ali LeRoi’s direction has such a sensitive touch. (I need to be clear — a lot of this is not fun. We do see the police kill Tunde several times, often graphically.)

I picked Groundhog Day to be first because, of course. I picked this to be second because I think it shows how much the time loop concept can be used to say something more.

*I feel like the movie may have implied that Tunde was already in the loop before the movie started.

Next week on March 30: See You Yesterday

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.