A fight for the truth

Looper (MA)

This is a smart and stylish time-travel movie that doesn't want you to think too hard about its premise.

There's a scene within the film in which a character actually insists on this: ''don't sweat it, don't worry about drawing diagrams on the table, just go with it,'' he says to someone who just happens to be his past self.

And it's advice that we, as audience members, probably need to heed.

Writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) reunites with his Brick star Joseph Gordon-Levitt for a film that takes in a plausibly bleak dystopian future, lightly but tellingly sketched in. There are, in fact, two futures in Looper: the one we first find ourselves in, in 2044, and the one that is connected to it, 30 years on.

By 2074, time travel has been discovered, but its use severely curtailed. Criminal elements, however, have covertly mastered it. They use it in a surprisingly limited way, as a kind of garbage disposal, sending undesirables back to 2044 to be killed by special assassins known as ''loopers''. One of these is Joe (Gordon-Levitt), whose plans become complicated when his future self (Bruce Willis) travels back in time to meet him, for reasons that gradually become clearer. This is not a spoiler: the conundrum is set up early.

What follows from it is a tale of choices, with a change of pace and a new focus. Joe's fate becomes caught up with that of Sara (Emily Blunt), a woman living in a big, isolated farmhouse with her young son, on the edge of a suitably symbolic-looking cornfield.

Looper makes us think of other movies, sometimes in an exhilarating way, sometimes - towards the end, in particular - in a more predictable fashion, in a special effects scene that feels as if it belongs to another genre in another world. And the limitations or wrinkles in its time-travel set-up don't feel like constraints. In the long run, this is a movie about emotional leaps rather than temporal ones.

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