‘Looper’: a fun ride on the time-travel express

Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "Joe" in TriStar Pictures, Film District, and End Game Entertainment's action thriller "Looper." (Courtesy of Alan Markfield/MCT)
By Cary Darling

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

In 2009, it looked as if we might be on the cusp of a golden age of science fiction in TV and film. “Battlestar Galactica” was wrapping up its award-winning, five-year run and the big-screen Star Trek reboot proved to be a surprisingly enjoyable return to form.

Two other movies, “Moon” and “District 9,” reminded viewers that science fiction can be about heart and humanity, not just hardware.

Now comes “Looper,” the time-travel tease from indie director/writer Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “The Brothers Bloom”) that is an immensely fun yet thought-provoking ride.

The ubiquitous Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe, a hit man living 30 years in the future whose job it is to execute other criminals sent through a time machine from his future. He erases their past, and what would have been their future ceases to exist. Case closed.

But then he comes face to face with his older self (Bruce Willis), who is sent back to be disposed of. This is where “Looper” is most intriguing — Willis and Gordon-Levitt engage in a tense stand-off in which they talk about what was, what will be, and what may never be.

Where “Looper” begins to teeter off the track is when it sacrifices this one-on-one intensity for special-effects, a potential love interest (Emily Blunt), and a plot involving telekinesis.

And, as with most time-travel sagas, you can’t think about the details of how this world works too much — or about Gordon-Levitt’s Willis-mimicking makeover — without giving yourself a migraine.

Still, there’s enough here to make you think maybe that promised golden age hasn’t been derailed, just delayed.