Terry Gilliam has always been a interesting director to watch for me personally. While The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and Brazil are two of my favorites, other popular favorites such as Time Bandits and Monty Python and the Holy Grail never lived up to the expectation that I had before watching. 12 Monkeys was brought to my attention due to my love of the short film La Jetee. While it had the same basic premise, this time it had the star power of Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis and the vision of Gilliam.
12 Monkeys takes place in two time periods. First, we get the future in which the population lives underground due to a viral attack several years before that killed 99% of humanity. James Cole (Willis) is sent back in time to figure out who is responsible for the destruction of life as we know it. When sent back earlier than planned, he is confused for a crazy person and locked up, where he meets Jeffrey Goines (Pitt) a fellow crazy and psychiatrist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe). Fast forward to the time he is supposed to arrive and he is on the trail to find out what the army of the twelve monkeys is all about, and exactly what this dream he keeps on having is about.
First thing that I took away from 12 Monkeys is that it is very much a Terry Gilliam film. Every angle, costume, and set (especially those set in the future) are distinctly Gilliam. Secondly, Brad Pitt is an absolute beast at acting. One of my favorite Pitt performances of all time. As for the rest of the film, it was a mixed bag. Maybe it was the fact the surprise ending wasn’t much of a surprise to me, but I never completely got hooked on the movie. For most however, I would suggest it, if only for the futuristic scenes which are incredibly well done. It may not be the best version of the plot, but the plot is just interesting enough that any interpretation of it would be good.