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The new Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt action flick works like gangbusters, as long as you don't think about it too much....
Sony / 119 Minutes / 2012 / Rated R / Street Date: December 31, 2012
Year-ending best-of lists are pretty roundly ridiculous (read ours here!), but when Looper won Best Screenplay from the National Board of Review, I seethed with disdain. I mean, this Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt thriller isn't a bad movie - in fact, in parts, it can be mesmerizing - but its time-travel plot constructs are resoundly stupefying, and absolutely not deserving of any sort of accolade toward the script as a whole.
This might draw ire from viewers who love movies in this particular subgenre, but no matter how fun movies like the new Star Trek or Back to the Future can be, their drifting-through-time narrative logic are their Achilles heels: as long as you don't pay much attention to the specifics at their cores, their end-result movies are fleeting and enjoyable, but the minute you concentrate on the bedrock ideas they promote, they dissipate in front of your very eyes.
Looper's setup is similarly engrossing - as long as you never pull your eyes into full focus. In writer/director Rian Johnson's future, time travel is illegal, the work of thugs and mobsters: baddies send their enemies back in time where handsomely-paid killers called Loopers show up at the right place at the right time, shoot the poor bastards, and collect their change. There's a hitch, though - should the dude who comes through the time-vortex turn out to be the Looper's future self, you still have to pull the trigger (therefore establishing a "loop" of finite life expectancy).
And as it turns out, Bruce Willis appears in the second act of Looper as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's future self, and Joe doesn't pull the trigger, therefore unleashing the movie's run-from-the-authorities cat-and-mouse chase. It's a helluva ride, too: Looper's analysis and presentation of time-travel logic is ludicrous (there's a diner sequence at the film's center that will either inspire you to turn off your brain and go along for the ride or divorce yourself from the movie completely), but as a diverting actioner, it's fine. It ain't the best screenplay of the year - not by a long shot - but there is significant escapist value here.