Monday, 26 July 2010

12 Monkeys - Review


12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam's time travelling SciFi flick from 1995, holds up well in high definition with only a few special effects spoilt by the clarity HD brings to the images.  Having never seen this before (I know, shame on me) my expectations were high, especially after reading AT's review of the Bluray last week.

I'll be honest I was a bit disappointed, but three films in a week with a, 'ohhhh what happens next,' ending was probably too much for my brain to cope with.  I want closure damn it!

The cast here is excellent, Bruce Willis's confused man from the future trying to cope with life in the 1990s is the stand out, he's quality in it and since he lost his hair has this man aged a day?  Brad Pitt's manic, menacing performance is superb too, the wonky eye effect turning his cherub like face into one that's slightly disturbing throughout.  He looks incredibly young too.  He's aged though, that's why he has a lil beard now.

Madeleine Stowe is solid as the love interest and her jump as a Psychologist intent on curing Willis of his, 'man from the future back to save humanity,' delusions to a believer is credible largely because of her performance rather than the plot.

The story jumps about between different eras setting up the final act.  However it feels muddled to me, almost too much of a great idea to cram into one movie.  Willis is sent back in time from an Orwellian style future where humans have been forced underground by a virus that wiped out 50 billion people in 1996.  His mission is to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys who were responsible for releasing the virus.  During his first trip back through time, something Gilliam never dwells on the mechanics of, he's put in a mental institution because of his claims and it's here that he first meets Stowe (psychologist) and Pitt (patient).  There are just too many red herrings here for me.  Not in the twist near the end, which I really liked, but in the minor moments during conversation that are never fully explained.  Stowe says early on to Willis that she recognises him and this seems to be explained when she spots him in a photograph in a book that shows a First World War casualty.  However towards the end of the movie, while he's disguised in a beard and wig, she claims that this is how she remembered him.  Yet we never see her see him like it.  Huh?!!  Doesn't make sense.

It's a cool film though, shot through with some great imagery and typical Gilliam trickery but it just doesn't feel like the substance, that it sets itself up as having, is really there.  It's and idea movie and that's no bad thing, but having a great bag of ideas is pretty pointless if you can't wind a convincing story around them and in the final third the film failed for me.

It's still an enjoyable tale, Gilliam as ever, presents his off kilter world view really well but he's like the kid who enjoys building the camp but has no idea what to do with it afterwards.  The film is saved by the acting and the directing.  The story..?  Great premise, no pay off.