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Critics on "Looper": It's worth going back in time

Release Date: Sept. 28 Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hitman assigned to bump off his future self (Bruce Willis) in a time-travel thriller.
Sony Pictures

(CBS News) The new futuristic thriller, "Looper," has critics excited about time travel, action and seeing Bruce Willis back on the big screen.

The film, set in 2044 Kansas, explores the invention of time travel, which ends up banned but still available on the black market. The mob can send a target 30 years into the past, where a "looper," or hired gun, awaits to execute the time traveler. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, the younger version of Willis.

It's the third from Rian Johnson, who previously directed 2005's "Brick" and 2008's "The Brothers Bloom.

"Looper," which also stars Jeff Daniels and Emily Blunt, has a very favorable 92 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

See what critics say:

Lou Lumenick of The New York Post gave "Looper" 3.5 stars: "An indie-inflected popcorn movie with major brains, brilliant acting and a highly satisfying payoff, 'Looper' is the first must-see movie of the season."

Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post: "[It] may begin as a 'Terminator'-like piece of time travel escapism, but ultimately gathers Old Testament-worthy force and fury."

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times: "'Looper' is way inventive but it wears its creativity lightly, like it's no big deal. This is a highflying, super-stylish science-fiction thriller that brings a fresh approach to mind-bending genre material. We're not always sure where this time-travel film is going, but we wouldn't dream of abandoning the ride."

Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal: "It's easy to be beguiled by the production's dazzling surfaces; they're so dazzling that the plot's improbabilities and downright impossibilities are readily forgiven, if not forgotten. But there's no forgetting the beauty and mystery that flow from the premise in general, and, in particular, from scenes that bring the two Joes face to face."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: "Stick with me here, because however long it takes to get your bearings, 'Looper' is worth it. It's a rip-roaring mind-bender that dodges the sci-fi-for-dummies approach (Resident Evil - really?) and hurls us into a world of existential curveballs and long-toss imagination. The exceptionally talented writer-director Rian Johnson is also a merry prankster who likes messing with heads."

Dana Stevens of Slate: "'Looper' felt to me like a maddening near-miss: It posits an impossible but fascinating-to-imagine relationship--a face-to-face encounter between one's present and future self, in which each self must account for its betrayal of the other--and then throws away nearly all the dramatic potential that relationship offers. If someone remakes Looper as the movie it could have been in, say, 30 years, will someone from the future please FedEx it back to me?"