12 mon­keys

Total Film - - Contents - Si­mon Kin­n­ear

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?”

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