By John ThomasSpecial to the chronicle When I went to the theater with my mom (because it was family weekend), I decided I wanted to see a classy flick, and I could think of nothing classier than the new Paul Thomas Anderson film “The Master.” I’m a huge fan of PT, so I’d had this movie on my to-watch list for a while. I prefer to go in dry. I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t really watch movie trailers, or the kind of guy you might call a total prick. I have to admit, though, I did have a bit of an understanding of the plot from the poster: two white guys trying to “Master” the American dream – by any means necessary. That prediction, save for the title, was spot on, even though I ended up seeing “Looper” instead. “Looper” is not a brilliant film, no matter what your freshman film studies friend told you. It’s flawed from the beginning by the dissonance, which seems ancillary rather than orchestrated, between the enigmatic narration of the camera and the first-person narration of our protagonist. In this era of Hollywood flops, it is the Achille’s heel of a film that could have been the best of this year’s crop. Joseph Gordon-Levitt undoubtedly gives the best performance of his career. He is a disgusting, vitriolic, and likable antihero who phases in and out of the transition to something more heroic, and Levitt plays his part with such composure and focus that I gasped each and every time his character was hurt. Willis, on the other hand, give his half-assed bad cop/good cop routine yet again. I’ve never been enthused by his work, but this is really a low point. At least his ridiculous facial gestures provide some comic relief. Now on to the part where you realize I was being a pretentious asshole about the endgame of the film, as I say those words: no, it was not a brilliant film, but it was a great one. Yes, the narration is ham-handed, but when I look past that, which I’m sure many of you will, I find very few flaws with director and screenwriter Rian Johnson’s work. He brings a simple concept of time travel that I hope becomes the status quo for the genre. It really does open up a whole realm of storytelling possibilities for directors to come, now that we can all sit back and come to the realization that a new riff on the space/time continuum is still the same old riff with a new pair of Spanx. That being said, Johnson never invests his screen time into delving deeply into this revelation, which is why this movie really works. It’s not a character piece as much as it is a thriller, one that will captivate you until the melancholy, beautiful climax.