We travel back in time to watch ourselves review the Bruce Willis sci-fi classic.
2 Monkeys remains Terry Gilliam’s biggest box-office hit.
Fair enough: it’s a sci-fi flick starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, a notably mainstream combination for this famously maverick director. Yet it was hardly a sure thing – a remake of an avant-garde French short (Chris Marker’s 1962 classic La Jetée), whose head-scrambling plot wreaks havoc with predestination, memory and sanity.
The complex plot sees postapocalypse survivor James Cole (Willis) sent back in time – often, to the wrong time – to get information on a deadly virus. Suiting Gilliam’s preference for the scenic route, the story resembles a puzzle that’s only reassembled to reveal the full picture at the bleak finale. Then again, Gilliam’s never had such a sure-footed sense of structure, thanks to the propulsive screenplay (co-written by Blade Runner’s David Peoples).
And while there’s no doubting the director’s hand in either the retrofuturist production design or the baroque, non-PC vision of life at a mental asylum, the tone is surprisingly ruminative. At heart, it’s a character piece that confirms Gilliam’s underappreciated talent with actors.
An exuberant Pitt garnered the Oscar nom, but this is arguably Willis’ most vulnerable, soulful performance, especially in his tender relationship with Madeleine Stowe’s psychiatrist. Extras include feature-length archive doc The Hamster Factor And Other Tales Of Twelve Monkeys.
“Hang on, so is this the past, present or future?”