Writer-director Rian Johnson has secured a cult following thanks to his innovative high school Noir-mystery Brick and quirky caper flick The Brothers Bloom. However, the first clip from his sci-fi thriller, Looper, illustrates that Johnson’s cinematic art isn’t just for the indie cinephile crowd; rather, it has appeal for film geeks of all shades.

Looper, for those just tuning in, revolves around Joe, a “hired gun” living in the present (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who executes targets sent back in time from a criminal organization that exists 30 years in the future. It’s just business as usual, until Joe encounters a target that he recognizes as his future self (Bruce Willis); when his older self escapes, young Joe sets out to finish the job.

The above Looper clip comes from a scene where the two Joes meet at a diner, each with their own agenda (Willis’ motivation has been kept secret throughout marketing). Their relationship is a riff on the classic movie pairing of a seasoned professional with a young upstart, who reminds the old man of himself. The mind-bending twist here is that young Joe is literally the splitting image of old Joe.

Time-travel, as demonstrated here, makes things complicated fast. Johnson keeps the film’s momentum going by having Old Joe refuse to discuss the finer details; as Willis puts it (with an air of self-awareness), he doesn’t want to spend the whole day “making diagrams with straws.” Hence, we get a fun moment where Old Joe teaches his younger self a lesson in humility, before the chase begins again.

In other words, Looper doesn’t appear to repeat the mistake of the Matrix sequels – where extended scenes of sci-fi philosophical talk are coupled together with several minutes of nonstop action, resulting in a film with an overall herky-jerky pacing. Instead, the moral dilemmas and thought-provoking questions inherent to the concept of time travel are present, but left for viewers to analyze.

That seems to allow Looper to work as a fun thriller for moviegoers in the mood for guns-blazing action, but also offer entertainment for the intellectual sci-fi crowd. Total Recall recently aimed for a similar mix of brains and brawn, but came up short (it’s much heavier on style than substance). Looper looks to pull that act off with greater ease – and help to make Johnson more of a household name.

Looper opens in theaters around the U.S. on September 28th, 2012.

Source: Yahoo! Movies