I don't dare say much more about the plot, because a key part of enjoying this movie is watching the story unfold as new information is revealed. However, I can at least say that the plot is about much more than this basic premise.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the young Joe, while Bruce Willis plays the older Joe from the future. In many movies with this kind of plot device, directors are content to cast actors that look a bit the same and leave it at that. But in Looper, Gordon-Levitt is given an incredible make-up and prosthetic makeover to look, not like a young Bruce Willis necessarily, but like a young version of Bruce Willis as he looks today. Sound confusing? It may not be the only thing that confuses you about this flick.
Maybe confusion is too strong of a word, but the movie certainly made me wonder where it was all headed. Some of this was due to marketing. In trailers, the main plot is presented as "young Joe is supposed to kill his older self, but he doesn't want to and that gets him in trouble with his superiors." But the focus of the plot zooms out from this plot thread and zooms back in on another thread directly related to the first one.
The change in plot focus is gradual, and makes the movie pleasantly unpredictable until the last two minutes. In any case, the story is an interesting one. And though this element of the script "shifting gears" felt like a lack of focus at times, I suspect this same "weakness" of the film will grow on me with future viewings.
And this movie is worth seeing more than once. It has some nice time-travel gags that are almost original ("Frequency" beat this flick to a few of them) and always enjoyable. The performances are also very engaging. Even though this movie has some great action and sci-fi elements, it doesn't rest on those, and casts people who can bring emotion and gravity to their scenes. A welcome change from standard sci-fi movie performances.
The visual effects have a nice feel to them. They are anything but flashy and instead lean toward a more "realistic" approach. Time travelers (and changes brought about in the timeline) simply appear instantly, without any crackling energy or visual warping. This approach grounds the movie nicely, in keeping with the emotional performances.
I wish the film would have made more logical sense regarding the rules of time travel and the changing timeline. Logic is used very selectively and inconsistently when applying change to the timeline in this movie. Of course, this is the case in most time-travel movies, but with the grounded feel of Looper I would have expected the "rules" of time-travel to be more logically consistent here. I think a movie like "The Butterfly Effect" is an example of time-travel being used more logically.
There is some brief, somewhat unfocused "nudity for the sake of nudity" in this film, which contributed to an overall lack of logic, as one character seems to put on her clothes again for no reason other than "our quota for flesh on screen has now been met". It's short-lived, but still both frustrating to me as a man who doesn't want to be tempted and as a story-lover who likes scenes and the actions of characters to make sense.
I think this movie could be a nice bridge into thought or conversation about logic, something vital to any search for truth. Whether deciding what doctor to go to or what God to worship, the use of logic is a vital part of making important decisions. Modern Americans seem to be lacking in our logic skills. Logic seems "boring" or "useless" to us. (This coming not from a self-proclaimed "logic expert", but from a person for whom logical thinking requires sincere effort.) But Looper could be a fun way to learn to apply logic. The movie isn't spoiled by the inconsistent application of time-travel rules, but it can still serve as a brief "logic training exercise" as we pick apart what logically SHOULD have happened when so-and-so changed "A" about the timeline.
Looper is likely not to be what you expect, which may disappoint some and thrill others. It's not a crazy action fest and is even a little slow at times, but engaging even so. It also has some interesting elements to tease your brain and keep it in working order.
Rated R for strong violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and drug content