Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt. Directed by Rian Johnson.

Itís 2044, and time travel hasnít been invented yet, but in thirty years it will be invented and prohibited. Crime syndicates do it anyway, and rather than killing people in their present, they send victims back to 2044 to be killed by employees called loopers, who shoot them on sight and dispose of the bodies. Itís an interesting way to handle murder, because loopers are killing people whose bodies and lives still exist in their present, so how are they guilty of murder?

When Looper is at its best, it lets its talented actors crawl around in the moral crevices of a reality rich in ethical dilemmas. The metaphorical minefield has been trod before in other time-travel films, including Minority Report, Hot Tub Time Machine, and even The Final Conflict: knowing whatís going to happen in the future, how far is it okay to go, if at all, toward stopping something horrible? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play Joe, thirty years apart, and what the older character hopes to alter is both personal and universal. Emily Blunt is a single mother who finds herself in the middle of Joeís situation, offering her own spin on the moralizing the film doesnít indulge in so much as encourage its audience to roll around in its consciences.

I thoroughly enjoyed just about every moment of this film, at times begging things to slow down so that I could poke my brain around in the choices confronted by the main characters, wishing I could consider alternate actions for them, like those old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books. I wanted Joe to linger with his acquaintances so we could get their stories; I wanted to stick a bookmark between its pages so I could flip to the glossary in the back and get explanations for the everyday objects and interactions the film doesnít take time to explain. Itís a well-thought-out world this movie is set in.

The acting is solid, both lead actors taking advantage of the droopy-eyed weariness I never before noticed they each carry in several films. I have a particular fondness for Emily Blunt, but her performance is uneven in Looper, and her character seems the least developed. At times Blunt seems to change the way her characters speaks and gestures from one scene to another, and at least once I could swear she changed her characterís accent in the middle of a sentence. There is also a child character, and I try to cut child actors some slack, but I couldnít stand this kid, either as an actor or as a character.

The pacing is excellent, and the length seems exactly right, but although (no spoiler here) the ending is the correct ending, there is one nagging question for me that I hope will be answered by a second viewing: while it is probably the best choice for the characters involved, does it really solve the problem? Iím left pretty unsure.

Looper is excellent science fiction that relies not on special effects or space ships, but on thoughtful development of its characters and consideration of the implications of the fiction it creates. Donít take the kids (itís bloody and violent as heck), but do take yourself.

8/10 (IMDb rating)
81/100 (Criticker rating)