“Looper” is a mind-bending bit of science-fiction entertainment – a trippy piece of cinema with an equal mix of style and substance.

Set in the near future, “Looper” refers to a group of hired killers targeting people from the future. These kills are done via time travel, which has been declared illegal by the government, with the victim teleported back 30 years where the looper is waiting.

One of these loopers is Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a drugged-out partygoer with aspirations of moving to France.

His carefree plans go awry, however, when he is hired to kill his future self (played by Bruce Willis), essentially closing his loop. The future Joe manages to escape, putting younger Joe in danger.

Writer/director Rian Johnson has developed a complicated premise that manages to get even more complex – in a good way – as the film progresses.

The second half of “Looper,” which involves the younger Joe hiding out on a remote farm with a single mother (Emily Blunt) and her young son (Pierce Gagnon), goes in a direction that is best left unspoiled and builds to a rather impressive climax.

Gordon-Levitt, barely recognizable under all the prosthetics and makeup to make him look like Willis, is really good, while Willis is in his comfort zone as the older version of Joe.

The way Johnson plays with time travel, and the narrative, can get a bit confusing (especially if you try to make sense of it afterward), but that’s part of the fun of time travel in films. Yeah, it doesn’t always make sense, but if it’s done right (and it is in “Looper”), it can be a lot of fun.

DVD dandy of the week

This week’s dandy is “Prometheus” (B), the unofficial prequel to “Alien” that marks director Ridley Scott’s first foray in the science-fiction genre in 30 years.

This is a well-crafted piece of work that astutely balances science fiction with genuinely jump-out-of-your-seat moments. It’s a throwback that should please sci-fi fans.

“Prometheus” follows a pair of scientists in the late 21st century – Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) – who find a star map that they believe is an invitation from an ancient culture on a distant planet.

Funded by a wealthy recluse named Peter Weyland (a barely recognizable Guy Pearce), Shaw and Holloway join a crew (which includes Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender) on an expedition to the planet.

Instead of discovering the origins of mankind, the crew comes face to face with an entity that threatens all of mankind.

“Prometheus” is a film that slowly builds tension before several set pieces in the second half that really up the ante. A sequence involving a sandstorm is dynamic, while one sequence is so graphically intense that you will never look at surgery the same way again.

The tension comes from Scott’s confident direction, but is also aided by a talented cast that really gives “Prometheus” emotional depth. It’s nice to see Rapace, who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” get a role that introduces her to a wider fan base. Theron and Elba are also good in supporting roles, but they are upstaged by Fassbender’s brilliant turn as the android David – a sort of creepy play off the HAL computer from Arthur C. Clarke’s “Space Odyssey” series.

“Prometheus” starts to wear thin in the final 15 minutes, with what feels like multiple endings and some long speeches that get a little too philosophical.

Those final minutes drop the film down slightly, but it is still a fun ride – and worthy of being part of the “Alien” franchise.

“Prometheus” is rated R for sci-fi violence, including some intense images, and brief language and will be available Tuesday on DVD.

— To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton’s up-to-the minute thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/ mcompton428. You can also email him at mcompton@bgdailynews. com.

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