12 Monkeys

Year: 1996
Director: Tery Gilliam
Cast: Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, David Morse
I wanted to like this film a lot better than I did. Yes, Gilliam is a visual genius, and you knew everything about it was brilliant even if – at times – you didn't know quite why.

The frustration stems from his insistence to make movies just over the line from plainly told, well into Lynch territory. The movie's fault, for that reason, lies with me and not with it – maybe for not watching it more than once and letting the brilliance reveal itself to me gradually.

On the surface, it's a great story in itself. Bruce Willis is Cole, a convicted criminal and inhabitant of the far future where a virus has wiped out most of Earth's population, causing the remnants of humanity to live in self-imposed quarantine underground while animals have reclaimed the surface – images like the lion roaring majestically from the top of the building are great in themselves without their relevance to the story.

Sent back in time to gather information about the virus and the band of anarchist revolutionaries that supposedly released it (the Army of the Twelve Monkeys), he's mistakenly sent back six years earlier than planned and locked up in an insane asylum. There he meets Goines (Pitt), a nutjob who will have plenty to do with the future, and beautiful psychiatrist Kathryn (Stowe), with whom he falls in love and refuses to return to the future.

The time travel plays with your head bad enough (I still can't figure out how he ended up in the first world war trench), but in Gilliam's hands, it more of a trip than Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and that was actually about drug trips!

Stellar performances and a plot you know will knock you over if you can reach it through the fog, make for a movie you want to love more than you can, but whose brilliance you can instinctively see.

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