I always thought Terry Gilliam, who was a member of Monty Python, was imaginative, creative and amusingly organized. His animations that were MP’s trademark are the base of the body of work that started with Time Bandits and will be The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, or something like Parnassus. This body of work consists of Twelve Monkeys, a time traveling movie that has a much darker tone compared to Doc Brown’s adventures with Marty McFly. And we all know how Terry Gilliam loves twists in a tale.
Twelve Monkeys starts in the future (year not known) where “animals have reclaimed the Earth” and the humans live underground. The reason for this is the release of a deadly virus in 1996 that killed 5 million people, and then the survivors went underground. Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a prisoner who gets a chance for pardoning himself when he bites off more than he can chew: by going back in time to 1996 and obtaining information about the virus and how it was released. The scientists of the future believe that an organization called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys is responsible for the virus’ release and so with this information, Cole goes back in time.
Bruce Willis has always portrayed hard, cold criminals with their humanity gone. He embodies Cole as a person whose on a mission, mad at the beginning, confused towards the end, and ultimately goes full circle (spoiler!!!). There is no heroism surrounding Cole, who has nothing to lose. Brad Pitt plays a mad, mad, mad, mad lunatic, Jeffrey Goines, and Pitt deserves the Golden Globe because that is true acting. His existence starts a guessing game by Cole and the scientists. Madeline Stowe plays Dr. Kathryn Railly, who wants to decipher Cole and thinks she’s seen him somewhere before…
Twelve Monkeys’ plot is very confusing, where it takes time to realize which time period you’re in, be it the future, the past, or the present (if there is a present at all, which Cole classifies as the past), and the plot is fast, quickfire dialog, some nice visuals and an overall dark look at humanity in general. But with the sci-fi story under Gilliam’s direction, this is good material.
I didn’t have a problem with Twelve Monkeys, but it doesn’t fall into great movies. The movie doesn’t follow an actual straightforward story, and sudden twists leave the viewer stunned, one after the other. But overall, Terry Gilliam is a guy with a trove of creativity.