'Looper' - What Did You Think?

We've been pretty high on the idea of Rian Johnson's third film, Looper, since the movie was first announced, especially as we learned that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would play a near-future assassin who kills mob victims illicitly sent back in time. Add Bruce Willis as the older version of the same character, who becomes a target for JGL, and things got really interesting. Then a test screening last fall got word out that Johnson may have really knocked Looper out of the park, and expectations for the film went through the roof.

And now, as we fairly easily begin to forget the unsatisfying sumer of 2012, Looper has hit theaters. And I'm happy to say that it is an excellent film. Not only is Johnson firing on all cylinders as a storyteller and director, the film is both a great piece of sci-fi and a satisfying character piece that really puts that central assassin character through the wringer. And even for those who have been paying attention to all the marketing, Sony left a few things unrevealed, so Looper gets to keep a few tricks hidden up its sleeve right until the end.

Moreso than for any other recent genre film, I'm curious to know what people think about Looper. So have at it in the comments below, where spoiler discussions of the film's story and meaning are fair game.

We'll just get it out of the way now: obviously one of the great discoveries first-time viewers make is that Looper has much more on its mind than the conflict between the old and young versions of Joe, the assassin. Trailers didn't make clear how Sara (Emily Blunt) factors in, and almost completely obscured the fact that she has a son, Cid (Pierce Gagnon). As Sid, who occasionally falls into a sort of telekinetic rage that wouldn't be out of place in Akira, Gagnon becomes the unexpected highlight of the film's latter half.

(More on the marketing decisions there in Germain's article on the film's mysteries.)

Beyond the surprise of Cid, there's the core moral quandary facing Joe — both versions of him. (Or the multitude of Joes, if you want to really get deep into the film's time-travel mechanics.) Looper works as sci-fi, but the best science fiction applies technological breakthroughs to human behavior. With respect to this story, what do we become when we can do new things? Can we ever escape our own nature, even if we're able to skirt around physical laws we take as constant? Joe realizes that he might not be able to, and so the only way to really alter the future he'll help create is to bow out and not take part at all.

I found Joe's story, with the sidebar illustration of what his cycle of violence might do to Cid, to be moving. I wasn't surprised by Joe's big decision, but I was floored by it, because of what it meant to him, to the people around him, and potentially the world. It's a small act with big echoes, and I think the film records the import of the moment beautifully.

So tell us what you thought of Looper. Did the premise work? Were you as caught up in the latter half of the film as I was?