The new sci-fi thriller "Looper" is all about reunions. First, the film reunites "Brick" director Rian Johnson with leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays a hit man plying his trade in the near future, taking out targets once they're sent back in time and into his cross hairs. Within this world, "Looper" also reunites a gruff old bruiser, played by Bruce Willis, with a younger version of himself. Unfortunately, his younger self is none other than Gordon-Levitt, and their meeting is decidedly work-related.
The resulting cat-and-mouse tale, which opened the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday and hits theaters Sept. 28, has earned nothing but praise in early reviews.
Variety's Peter Debruge calls the film "grandly conceived" and "impressively mounted," adding that "'Looper' marks a huge leap forward for Rian Johnson." The director "steps up to the pic's practical challenges nicely, balancing high-caliber action with intricate character work," and Willis brings welcome tenderness to his usual tough-guy routine. Less successful is the prosthetic makeup used to make Gordon-Levitt look more like Willis: "The two actors look nothing alike, of course, which wouldn't be a big deal, if Johnson hadn't tried so hard to force a resemblance."
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy agrees that "Johnson's third and most ambitious feature keeps the action popping while sustaining interest in the long arc." Although "the shakiest aspect of Johnson's original screenplay is what it asks the viewer to buy about the future," McCarthy writes, "the premise is established in nifty fashion" and "the eventual ending is great, the resolution to the tricky time maneuvering very impressively worked out." Gordon-Levitt and Willis earn high marks ("their physical disparity notwithstanding"), as do supporting actors Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels.