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The 25 Best Movies of 2012

4. Looper

Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Noah Segan, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Piper Perabo, Pierce Gagnon, Garret Dillahunt

Watch, years from now, when critics and cinephiles look back on Rian Johnson's Looper, they're going to realize that it's a new genre classic.

As of now, folks are well aware of its many virtues, least of which is Johnson's ability to make time travel story mechanics easily digestible while never skimping on the headiness and ambition. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (hardly recognizable under tons of makeup) plays a futuristic mob-hired hitman whose job requires him to murder people sent back from the 30 years into the future, and whose life gets very complicated once his future self (played by Bruce Willis) becomes his latest target. And with that, you've got a high-concept action film rooted in science fiction and driven by characters.

Impressively, though, Johnson (coming off the well-received, and vastly different, indie flicks Brick and The Brothers Bloom) underscores all of Looper's genre tropes and glossy eye candy with an surprising amount of emotional intensity. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that he's not afraid to plunge into dark moral territories, ones that require viewers to adjust their sympathies and expect the unexpected. It's comparable to Christopher Nolan's Inception. That's no small compliment.

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