Friday Flicks: Is Looper the Best Sci-Fi Film Since The Matrix?

TIME breaks down which films to see and which to avoid this weekend.

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Tagline: Hunted By Your Future. Haunted By Your Past

If you’re willing to give into the hype, then apparently writer/director Rian Johnson’s Looper is 12 Monkeys meets The Matrix with a touch of Terminator 2. At the heart of the matter is time travel: when it gets invented in the future, Looper posits, it will be deemed illegal and only available on the black market, which you have to concede is a pretty cute conceit.

Speaking of pretty cute, Looper stars that unassuming heartthrob Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Joe, a hired gun waiting 30 years in the past to take care of the individuals his mob employers in the future want eliminating (it’ll all make sense when you see it, we presume). But matters get considerably more complicated when the mob decides to “close the loop,” as it were, which results in sending back Joe’s future self (Bruce Willis) for assassination.

Perhaps we’re being slightly naïve in predicting that the plot will be digestible to all but the critics seem to have had a blast taking it all in. Time Out London – while admitting that the storyline “is far too convoluted to explain” – is on board: “If Johnson’s main aim was to strike a balance between conceptual cleverness and multiplex thrills, he could hardly have done better. This is a hugely satisfying, enjoyable and thoughtful movie.” the Village Voice is keen highlight the an emotional resonance to the sci-fi storytelling, concluding that “there’s no shame in a film that favors the human scale over abstract philosophizing or meta-cinematic frippery.” And New York magazine’s David Edelstein reckons that, “if high-toned futuristic time-travel pictures with a splash of romance float your boat the way they do mine, you’ll have yourself a time.”

MORE: Joseph Gordon-Levitt on Becoming Bruce Willis

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