Directed By: Rian Johnson

Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, and Jeff Daniels

Time travel is quintessentially sci-fi.  Some of the greatest sci-fi flicks have turned the time and space continuum on its head.  What would cinema be like today if Marty McFly never went back to 1955 or if the Terminator never went back in time to kill John Connor?  Time travel is a cornerstone of the science fiction genre, and Rian Johnson decides to gives the world his take on the concept in his futuristic action thriller Looper.

It's 2044.  Time travel has not yet been invented, but it will be thirty years from now.  When it is invented, time travel is immediately outlawed by the government, and the only people who use it are criminals.  Whenever these criminals from the future need to get rid of someone, they send them back in time to special assassins known as loopers.  This makes the disposal of bodies much easier as no one in the past has any reason to look for these victims.  Sending folks back in time to their death is the perfect murder.

Being a looper is a demanding job that often shortens one's lifespan.  Because these assassins kill for the criminals of the future, they can't live to see that future.  They're liabilities.  Consequently, a looper's final assignment is to close his loop and kill his future self.  Those who fail to do this when their time comes essentially let their loop run as their future selves wander through what feels like a cloudy past for them.  A new crime boss known as the Rainmaker has taken over in the 2074 crime world, and he's closing loops like there's no tomorrow.  When looper Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) fails to kill his older self (Bruce Willis) and lets his loop run, hell breaks loose.  Both Joes face some serious problems as present-day mob boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) begins a manhunt for both of them.  It doesn't help either that young Joe is determined to kill old Joe and reclaim his life.

If The Terminator began the cinematic conversation on time travel, Looper takes the discussion to a whole new level.  The Terminator is limited in the fact that it deals with machines traveling back in time, while Looper has no such trouble.  With humans going back instead, director Rian Johnson has so much more room for creativity.  There are so many additional layers of complexity, particularly when that person exists in the previous time period.  This includes old and new memories and new lasting injuries.  It also encompasses the fluidity of time and the notion that the future is an ever-changing phenomenon with a variety of possible outcomes.  We even manage to get some telekinesis in the film.  Johnson really gives us some big ideas to ponder with Looper.  He's given us the most inventive sci-fi flick I've seen since Inception.

The actors help to bring Johnson's futuristic world to life in a grand way.  As old Joe, Bruce Willis is kicking some serious ass throughout the film.  He's talking quite a bit of trash as well.  I haven't seen him this badass on the big screen since Live Free or Die Hard.  Nobody could play this role to perfection like Willis.  That being said, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a hell of a job in playing a younger Willis.  He looks like him.  He sounds like him.  He even moves like him.  It's clear that Gordon-Levitt has done his homework for this role, and it's certainly paying dividends.  As Sara, a shotgun-wielding mom who's killed three hobos in the last year, Emily Blunt takes on a role that really showcases that she can do more than romance.  It's nice to see The Five-Year Engagement star doing something different.  Finally, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano also give some great, comedy-laced supporting performances as Abe and Seth respectively.

With Looper, Rian Johnson gives us a dark, visceral film that gets pretty bloody.  He gives us a strong cast that delivers strong performances.  Most importantly, he gives us big concept filmmaking.  Looper and its take on time travel are things you can think about for days.  Time travel is a complex theme that can have many, many layers, and Johnson brings this to light in a way that no other film really has.  That's the mark of a truly brilliant film.  Looper gets a sober rating.  You don't need a drop of anything for this one.