Because I am such a fan of writer/director Rian Johnson's first film Brick, and have been long convinced that he is a major talent, Looper is one of those films that I purposefully went to see without watching any trailers or reading any reviews beforehand. I knew only its basic premise: that Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hit man whose targets are zapped to him through space and time from thirty years in the future, where it's far more difficult to dispose of dead bodies because of hi-tech law enforcement. The story kicks in when Gordon-Levitt is instructed to actually kill his future self (Bruce Willis).
What I did not know – and I'm not spoiling anything – is that on top of the time travel plot device, the story itself is set some thirty years in our own future, and it also involves telekinesis. In short, Looper's plot has elements of The Terminator, Blade Runner, and even The Omen and Signs to some degree. It's an intriguing mix of sci fi staples, but frankly I think Johnson simply tried to cram too much in.
So I guess I am a little disappointed in Looper, in that I expected it to take either an intellectual path – where the paradoxes of time travel challenge the viewer – or an emotional path, focusing on the characters and their desires. While it aims for the latter, in actuality the film follows a third, less satisfying path: one of callow geekery. The genre-ness of it all soon takes center stage, and so the intellectual and emotional hooks go limp.
Still and all, it's a well-made movie, and there's a lot of neat ideas on screen. I enjoy films that earnestly try to predict what the world will be like in thirty years (the results always being plausible in some details and wholly ridiculous in others); Gordon-Levitt, made up to look like a younger Willis, is fine as always; and Johnson's got his usual clever visuals on display.
In short, Looper is worth seeing and will probably win a cult following. But if you're looking for something with the heartbreaking resonance of that other Bruce Willis time travel movie, 12 Monkeys, you may agree with me that Looper tries but doesn't quite deliver.