Twelve Monkeys

1995, Movie, R, 130 mins


A glorious dystopian downer, ready-made for years of fan-boy dissection. For once, the packagers didn't outsmart themselves: a creative match made in movie heaven--director Terry Gilliam (BRAZIL) plus screenwriter David Webb Peoples (BLADE RUNNER)--yielded an instant cult classic that's everything you wanted it to be.

Perhaps more important, TWELVE MONKEYS is none of the things you hoped it wouldn't be: it's a time-travel movie that doesn't get bogged down in time-travel technicalities, a killer-virus movie without Dustin Hoffman or that adorable monkey (title notwithstanding, there are no monkeys at all), a Brad Pitt movie in which Hollywood's leading pretty boy looks even worse than he did in SEVEN, a Bruce Willis movie without a single smart-ass one-liner. It's BRAZIL crossed with THE TERMINATOR, and just when you think the production design is in danger of overwhelming the story, Gilliam goes for a note of pure, inevitable tragedy and hits it solidly.

It may not mean anything to anyone except die-hard movie buffs, but we're compelled to mention that the screenplay is loosely based on Chris Marker's 1962 experimental classic, LA JETEE. It was an act of sheer hubris to remake Marker's futuristic meditation on temps perdu--told almost entirely in still images--as a big-budget, mainstream picture starring Bruce Willis. That Terry Gilliam managed to make TWELVE MONKEYS into a clever, complex, and poignant success is as astonishing as it is satisfying. leave a comment

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