Wouldn’t it be cool to time travel? Play a game of beer pong with Henry VIII? Or give Adam West a DVD player to watch The Dark Knight Rises? It’s said that traveling back in time — well at least theoretically-speaking — and altering history in any way can have severe consequences. But really! Are you telling me that you’d be able to resist introducing Victorian Britain to “Gangnam Style”?

But, time-traveling does have its dire effects; hence, the basic premise behind Looper, starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt.

Looper is based sometime in the near future, in a Kansas City that looks more like the dicey spawn child of Berlin and Detroit where misfits, malcontents and gangsters with avant-garde toys and tools run wild. In this futuristic city exists an ambitious looper and junkie named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).Loopers are hitmen hired by an organized crime syndicate that operates in Shanghai. They send their targets and assassins back in time, where they take care of business.

These assassins, however, will inevitably be sent the future versions of themselves and given the task of killing them in a retirement process known as “closing the loop.” When Joe gets sent his older self, brilliantly portrayed by Bruce Willis, he does not kill him, setting in motion an endless circular conundrum-turned-chase in which the young Joe fights for his survival by trying to kill his older self. Essential to the culmination of the plot is six-year-old Pierce Gagnon, who plays Cid and almost steals the limelight from Levitt, Willis and Blunt.

The problem with many films in the sci-fi genre is that almost all the movies consider their plot and script only insofar as it fits into the vision of slick, expensive, angular, sterile, glossy futures. The focus is souly on production and design, with the effects and visuals taking precedence.

Looper, however, is markedly different from these films. The movie’s brilliance lies in its intricate details. The technological innovations of 2042 are only used sparingly, mostly to make a point or two or when they’re integral for the plot to move forward, and even then they’re contextualized to fit our21st-century vision. Yes, every now and then, you see a flying cop car loom in the background, or a scene of a post-Armageddon metropolis that looks like a police state. But that sterile, almost cold and harsh environment is balanced by an agrarian landscape. Half the film takes place on a farm.

Although you could argue the logic of Looper’s time travel mechanics, time travel is a fantasy and all that matters is film’s internal consistency. Looper pulls off the necessary suspension of disbelief. At the end of the day, this time travel stuff just fries your brain like an egg.

As a movie marketed as a sci-fi/action/thriller blockbuster, the action often comes down to gunplay, which can become tedious at times. That aside, one of my favorite elements is the clever, subtle and, I would argue, artful way that Levitt’s appearance is revised to match Willis’; it just works. Levitt really looks like a younger version of Willis.

With such a tense plot, driven by a superb and hard-boiled script full of barbed one-liners, it’s odd that human emotion in Johnson’s screenplay is somewhat lacking. Just like the lead characters, I was left longing for something I could not find. Given the ending of Looper, that might just be the intent of Johnson. Ultimately, however, Looper is a cerebral-intensive movie, dotted with some comedic highs, delivered in a volley of bullets and drama, that works on many levels.

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