Fulfilling the ambitions of his debut Brick, Rian Johnson crafts a scintillating neo-noir gem of existential quandaries and inescapable fatalism with Looper. In 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works as a Looper – a mob assassin who, because it's too tough to dispose of bodies in the future, kills targets sent back in time by his employers. That vocation becomes complicated when he's tasked with offing himself, a practice known as "closing the loop" that goes awry when his future self (Bruce Willis) escapes, thus putting both men on the run from crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels), and eventually leading them to the farmhouse of Sara (Emily Blunt), whose son Cid (a terrific Pierce Gagnon) may grow up to become the mysterious underworld kingpin who's determined to close out all Looper contracts. That intricate narrative path is handled with assured and thrilling aplomb by Johnson, who forgoes his prior films' self-conscious cutesiness for a grim, no-nonsense mood of dread and futility. Aided by an editorial structure that keeps various threads in expert balance, his gorgeous and graceful camerawork exhibits a fluidity that's at odds with the increasing literal and moral messiness of Joe's plight. Wearing facial prosthetics to better resemble a young Willis, Gordon-Levitt has a hardboiled weariness that's simultaneously endearing and pitiful, and is juxtaposed with Willis' somber desperation and, amusingly, his frustration and fury at the foolishness of his younger self. With both its urban and rural-cornfield milieus marked by consuming bleakness, Looper harkens back to both Blade Runner and The Killers while nonetheless crafting its own unique spin on noir fatalism. That culminates in an inventive third act that – integrating further sci-fi elements which enhance and complicate its larger ideas about actualization, free will, and sacrifice – determines that, regardless of noble intentions, there's ultimately no changing one's fate.