Cool World is known, by those few who may be aware of its existence, as the ‘other’ film in which live action characters inhabit the same realm as cartoons. The more famous one of course is Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a glorious gem of a film that gets the acclaim, notoriety and long lasting attention, as it well should. (We won’t speak of a third one involving a certain moose and squirrel that really does earn it’s bad rap). Cool World is somewhat maligned as the black sheep of the two, and in some people’s eyes (Ebert laid a stern smackdown on it) downright hated on. It’s no doubt very different from Roger Rabbit, which is admittedly the better film and the easier one to like and relate to. But this one is brilliant in its own right, at least for me. I love the way it uses a sombre tone with its human creations to throw a unique light on them as soon as the Toons show up. It’s quaint and wonderfully inaccessible, with some scenes existing purely of a need to showcase a stream of consciousness type style that doesn’t so much halt the proceedings, as give them their own surreal flavor. Brad Pitt is Frank Harris, victim of a jarring post war tragedy and thrown headlong into the cartoon world, eventually finding himself a Detective in their realm. Outside in our world, lonely cartoonist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne is a sly choice for the role) falls in love with one of his creations, a blonde bombshell named Holli Would (voiced and later played in the flesh by Kim Basinger). Holli is as devious as she is gorgeous, and works to use Jack’s attraction to her as a conduit to escape into our world. Pretty soon a deafening cacophany of cartoon creatures in all shapes, sizes and colours floods out of their dimension and into ours, creating quite the cosmic mess for Pitt to clean up. It’s fun without being too zany, the overblown fuss of the Toons contrasted by a glum human world, reeling from the war and unexpecting of such an event to unfold. Granted, the meshing of the two dimensions isn’t given the precise, big budget fanfare and cutting edge methods of Roger Rabbit, but the world building and special effects here are still pure enchantment and offer a dazzling level of entertainment. Pitt is stoic with flinty sparks of boyish charm, Byrne hilariously plays it dead straight, and Basinger is dead friggin sexy. She steals the show especially as Holli in human form, having a ball with the bubbly bimbo trying to keep a straight face in the real world. The Toons in general really are a diverse bunch, ranging from animals to inanimate objects to tiny little formless cutesy blobs and everything in between, filling their frames with a chaotic, detailed miasma worthy of Studio Ghibli. Lot of hate floating around for this one. You won’t find any from me, I love the film, and accept it for the adult friendly, experimental oddity it is. Great stuff.
Faster is an action film with an eerie aura and a darkly unnerving bite to it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s action through and through, a genre effort right to its marrow. And yet, there’s something oddly esoteric about it, an obvious extra effort put in by the filmmakers, namely first time action director George Tillman, to give every character an off kilter, bizarre cadence to ensure we won’t forget them. There’s clichés, no doubt, but they’re eclipsed by the strange, full moon weirdness of the rogues running about the film’s story. Dwayne Johnson fires up a furious protagonist in his first action role after a long and ridiculous stint in insufferable family comedies. He plays a quiet, hulking dude known only as Driver, reluctantly released from prison by a watchful Warden (Tom Berenger). Upon exiting the gate, he runs. And runs. And runs. He arrives at a small town junkyard where he tears a tarp of a vintage Chevelle which seems to be left there for him like a care package. From there he launches a bloody crusade of revenge that knows neither mercy nor discretion, and whose reasons we are only slowly allowed to know. He’s a one man wrecking ball, the murders piling up before we really have any idea what this guy is about. He’s been greatly wronged in the past, the culprits of which should all be running scared, as he comes looking for them one by one and with the juggernaut pace of a boulder tumbling down a mountain. Pretty soon there’s two cops on his trail, intrepid Cicero (Carla Gugino) and mopey sleazeball ‘Cop’ (Billy Bob Thornton), a dilapidated piece of work who mainlines heroin and clearly has a murky past. Soon there’s one hell of a hitman (Oliver Jackson Cohen) skulking around looking for Driver, an extreme sports enthusiast who has ‘beaten yoga’ and is avidly looking for the next big thrill. Johnson jumps from one ultra violent encounter to the next with all the corrosive ferocity of the grim reaper, tallying up the corpses until we’re all but sure he’s an inhuman elimination machine. Then.. the film curveballs us and throws a glint of humanity into the mix with some late third act emotion that only goes to show the filmmakers set out with more than a one track mind. Driver has been unspeakably betrayed, and his rampage is undeniably justified, but there’s a complexity to his quest that he didn’t see coming, and neither did those of us who expected pure action without a moral conundrum in sight. I say good on it for grasping something besides the thrills. A terrific cast populates the almost Oliver Stone – esque proceedings, including Maggie Grace, Moon Bloodgood, Mike Epps, Jennifer Carpenter (always superb), Matt Gerald, Xander Berkeley, Buzz Belmondo, Courtney Gains and more. It’s got the depth of a well written graphic novel and a level of thought out characterization that heaps of stale action entries wish they possessed.
If an eighth grade class raided their parents liquor cabinet, passed around a bottle, got good and loaded and took it upon themselves to make their own version of every 90’s action cliche, it would look something like Ticker, a wonderfully inept mad bomber tale that starts at rock bottom and cheerfully drills farther down, as well as into critics collective patience, it seems. It’s silly clunky and all over the place, but there’s a scrappy likeability to its amalgamated stew of genre tropes, masculine posturing and endless explosions. The bomber in question is Alex Swan (Dennis Hopper), a homicidal Irish extremist intent on making life hard for the San Francisco bomb squad, led by explosives expert Frank Glass (a laughably zen Steven Seagal). Hero cop Ray Nettles (Tom Sizemore) previously lost a partner to bombers and has a big score to settle with Swan. And so it goes. Bombs go off. Cops argue. They chase Hopper, who eludes them until the next set of fireworks destroy a wall glass panels or a bridge. Sizemore is surprisingly sedated, not seizing the opportunity to use his lead role as an excuse to tear through scenery like a bulldozer, as is usually his speciality. Seagal is so silly, his intended gravitas landing with all the profundity of an SNL skit. Hopper is demented, even more so than in Speed, and the rental fee is worth it just to hear his perplexing, absolutely wretched Irish accent. Not since Tommy Lee Jones in Blown Away have I laughed that hard at an actor butchering the dialect to high heaven. There’s appearances from Nas, Jaime Pressley, Kevin Gage and the always awesome Peter Greene as ana a-hole fellow cop that hounds Sizemore any chance he gets. Quite the cast, and in a perfect world the film they wander through would match their talent. I watched this with the same morbid curiosity that the bystanders gawking at the resulting destruction of one of Hopper’s bombs no doubt had: incredulity and the inability to look away for missing a moment of a disaster unfolding in front of you.
There are a few films Kevin Costner has done in which he has really been allowed and been willing to test the boundaries of what is usually expected from him in a role. 3,000 Miles To Graceland and Eastwood’s A Perfect World are fine examples. Perhaps the finest though is Mr. Brooks, a dark tale that showcases the actor in a terrifying turn and the last type of role you would picture for him on paper. Opposites are paramount in acting and cinema as a whole, and it’s that type of contrarian casting choice that can lead to a performer’s finest hours. In this case it’s certainly one of Kevin’s best outings, and casts him in a frightening new light, or should I say dark. Here he is Earl Brooks, husband, father, businessman and all round stand up guy. Except fpr the fact that he moonlights as a methodical and psychopathic serial killer. He sees it as an affliction, and is almost ashamed of it, whether by a tiny flicker of a soul he may have, or simply by the standards impressed onto society. He’s efficient, cold and hopelessly addicted to the act of murder. His alter ego, or ‘dark passenger’ as the scholars say, is a cynical persona called Marshall, brought to life by a scary William Hurt. “Why do you fight it, Earl?” he drawls in that committed, laconic snarl that only Hurt can do. There’s shades of his character from Cronenberg’s A History Of Violence here, affirming my belief that Hurt is a pure acting prodigy and masterful of both the light and the dark within his craft. Earl has a daughter too (Danielle Panabaker) who he has worrisome thoughts about, and a picture perfect wife (Marg Helgenberger). One can’t keep the turbulent nightlife of the serial killer a secret for one’s entire life though, and pretty soon people start to catch on. A nosy Nelly (Dane Cook) catches a whiff of Earl’s crimes and lives to wish he hadn’t, and a keen Detective (Demi Moore) begins to piece the puzzle together as well. Earl is as clever as he is murderous though, covering his work and tying off loose ends with gut churning gusto. Costner carries the film terrifically, a man who is at once both uncomfortable in his own skin yet fits it like a glove when the camera dutifully bears witness to his killings. He’s like a tiger who really can’t change his stripes but wants to shield them from the judgment of others, and of course his own persecution. The scenes of murder are skin crawling in their frank, fly-on-the-wall nature, no slasher cinematics or gimmicky set ups here, just the icy horror of a predator extinguishing human life to sate the beast, and the nightmarish inevitability of death. Those scenes paint Earl in a horrific light, but the film doesn’t try to convince us he’s a monster using any usual methods, it just presents to us this man, his acts and his life surrounding them, without discernable condoning or condemning. It’s cold, it’s clinical and it’s one of the best serial killer flicks out there.
There are unfilmable novels and then there is Thomas Pynchon, the premiere post-modern novelist responsible for legendary tomes like Gravity’s Rainbow and Mason & Dixon. He is known for producing dense, complex novels that explore themes such as racism, philosophy, science and technology while fusing theological and literary ideas with popular culture references to comic books, films, urban myths and conspiracy theories. Satire and paranoia are common currencies that he uses in his novels. And that’s only scratching the surface.
The 1960s were an important decade for Pynchon. It was at this time that his novels V. and The Crying of Lot 49 were published and the bulk of Gravity’s Rainbow was written. He would revisit the ‘60s again from the perspective of the 1980s with Vineland and, most recently, with Inherent Vice, which was published in 2009. The latter novel has been considered his most accessible work since Lot 49 and has been adapted into a film by Paul Thomas Anderson, the American auteur responsible for such memorable efforts as Boogie Nights (1997), There Will Be Blood (2007) and The Master (2012) among others.
Possibly informed by Pynchon’s stint in Manhattan Beach, California during the mid-‘60s, Inherent Vice is part stoner comedy/mystery and part lament for an era that was all but gone by 1970 when the story takes place. If the ‘60s was about having your head in the clouds then the ‘70s was about having your feet on the ground. Like its source material, the film plays fast and loose with notions of plot and story, riffing on elements of a Raymond Chandler-esque mystery through a counterculture filter.
Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private investigator of the rumpled variety. One night, he’s visited by an ex-girlfriend by the name of Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) whose latest boyfriend, Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), a big-time real estate developer, and his wife are involved in some kind of shady scheme. Doc soon finds himself framed for murder, Shasta disappears (as does Mickey) and he runs afoul of hardass Los Angeles police detective Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin). During the course of his investigation, Doc finds himself immersed in the bizarro social strata of California culture, including a drug-addicted surf musician (Owen Wilson), a member of the Black Panthers (Michael K. Williams), a cokehead dentist (Martin Short), and a secret cartel known as the Golden Fang.
Inherent Vice is the second collaboration between Anderson and actor Joaquin Phoenix and the former may have found his cinematic alter ego. Working together brings out the best in both of them with the actor delivering another excellent performance. He portrays Doc as a peaceful hippie P.I. content to coast through life surrounded by a cloud of pot smoke, but is thrust into a strange world when an ex-lover comes back into his life. He acts as our guide on this journey and the key to navigating the sometimes murky narrative waters is to never lose focus of the primary mystery: the disappearance of Shasta. Doc represents the peace-loving idealism of the ‘60s and who is confronted by all kinds of outlandish people that represent the aggressive excessiveness of the ‘70s.
Anderson populates Inherent Vice with a stellar cast of supporting actors that includes Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Benicio del Toro, and Martin Short, all of whom bring this collection of oddball characters vividly to life. Some may find the cavalcade of recognizable movie stars distracting but, on the contrary, they act as important signposts along the way to help us keep track of the numerous characters Doc encounters during his investigation.
Josh Brolin gets the most screen-time of the supporting cast as Bigfoot Bjornsen, a throwback to cops of the early ‘60s, complete with crew cut and deep loathing of hippies like Doc. Initially, Bigfoot starts off as Doc’s primary nemesis, but over the course of the film he reveals a frustration with his lot in life, displaying a grudging mutual respect. Brolin certainly has the imposing frame to play Bigfoot and wisely plays the role straight, which makes several of his scenes that much funnier because the uptight character is a product of a bygone era that clashes with the more easygoing Doc as much as the excessive culture of the ‘70s.
The trailers for Inherent Vice are misleading in the sense that they sell the film as some kind of madcap comedy and while there are some out-and-out funny scenes, like Martin Short’s cocaine-addicted dentist, there is a melancholic tone that permeates most of the film expanding on “The High Water Mark” speech Raoul Duke gives late in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) as he laments the death of ‘60s idealism. Inherent Vice even ends on a surprisingly emotional moment that is quite affecting. Instead of going for quick, comedic beats, Anderson applies the aesthetic he used in There Will Be Blood and The Master by breaking the film down into lengthy, dialogue-heavy scenes between Doc and one of the many people involved either directly or tangentially to Shasta’s disappearance, which may test the patience of some expecting the stylish zaniness of something like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. While Terry Gilliam’s film reflected Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo sensibilities, so too does Inherent Vice reflect Pynchon’s peculiar sensibilities. Like the book, Anderson takes his time and lets you sink into Pynchon’s world, which is certainly not an experience for everyone.
Several reviews have compared Inherent Vice to Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski (1998), but they are only similar on a very superficial level. Anderson’s film is its own thing – a shaggy dog journey through a corner of Pynchon’s universe that the filmmaker has brought faithfully and lovingly to life. Much like Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (2012), Inherent Vice is made by and for fans of Pynchon’s novel, which will leave the uninitiated out in the cold, struggling to follow a film that may seem like an incoherent mess, but is actually quite faithful to its source material with huge chunks of the author’s prose coming out of the characters’ mouths. You shouldn’t have to see a film more than once to “get it,” but there are some that reveal themselves in more detail and whose nuances are appreciated upon repeated viewings. This is such a film. As Pynchon himself once famously said in response to the complexity of his novel V., “Why should things be easy to understand?” The fact that one of Pynchon’s novels has been adapted into a film is quite a significant accomplishment. That it successfully translates his worldview is even more noteworthy.
Ahh, Peter Berg’s The Rundown. What a sun soaked galavant of action fun, a purely cinematic exercise in excitement and joyous fun, a rollicking genre exercise that’s free from the rides of intellectual expectation. No, it’s nothing but playtime here, and one of the rare cases where a PG-13 rating actually doesn’t hurt an action film. It’s so lighthearted and affable that the extra bloody punch of an R rating probably would have been a jarring, unnecessary distraction and offset it’s tone. For the record, you will almost never hear me advocate that in this genre, but I suppose every issues has its extreme exceptions. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays Beck, a rough and tumble dude who coyly disguises the title of bounty hunter by calling himself a ‘retrieval expert’. He’s essentially a big teddy bear with the ability to rip out your stuffing and kick the ever loving shit out of anyone whose demise will earn him a pay cheque. He doesn’t like using guns, and every cent he makes goes towards a dream of opening up his own restaurant. Pretty much the most adorable action hero you can imagine. He is sent by an Miami crime lord (William Lucking hamming it up royally) to retrieve his wayward son (Sean William Scott) who has run off to an unspecified tropical country. Beck jumps a plane and runs off to said country to give us one of the most pleasently riotous action/comedy/adventure of the 00’s. His pursuit of Scott leads him to endless picturesque jungles, horny baboons, invincible native Kung fi warriors and more. Scott turns out to be an elusive wise – ass who is nothing but calamity for both Beck and himself. The scenes where they try the dodgy local fruit are rewind worthy. He really shines here, bringing the same burn-down-the-house attitude he did as Stiffler. There’s also a priceless artifact that everyone is trying to retrieve, including a tough local bartender (Rosario Dawson). There’s also a villain, as there must be in any action film, a bugnuts local tyrant named Hatcher played by the one and only Christopher Walken. Hatcher is a wonderful Walken creation whose attempted menace is constantly undone by his penchent for silliness, a winning combination that super-charges every scene he gets. That lanky Scotsman Ewan Bremer is wicked funny as a deranged bush pilot who assists Beck in unintelligible endearance. Hearing him vivaciously recite Dylan Thomas’s ‘Dying Of The Light’ right before a big old gunfight kicks off is absolute gold. Dwayne makes nice work of the action hero archetype, bringing an almost adolescent buoyancy to his vibe that he may even have not seen coming when he got into the craft. There’s a surprise cameo from a genre titan early on in the film that is essentially a passing of the torch symbol, so eyes should be kept peeled. Director Berg knows how to wow an audience in many a genre, this being my favourite excursion of his thus far. It’s loud, scenic, unapologetic and has fun six ways to fucking Sunday.
“It’s one thing to get lost in your own madness, but to become lost in somebody else’s madness is weirder.” – Terry Gilliam
How do you know when someone is crazy? This is a question that filmmaker Terry Gilliam tries to answer in many of his films, for he is obsessed by the notion of insanity – what makes someone insane and how do others view this person. Is someone really crazy or do they simply have a different view of the world than the rest of society? In the past, Gilliam’s films have presented characters that tend to blur the boundary between sanity and madness, but perhaps his most complex treatment of this subject is Twelve Monkeys (1995). It is with this project that the filmmaker combines his long standing obsession of breathtaking visuals with his knack for working closely with actors. This combination has resulted in more mature films for Gilliam who is normally associated with stylish overkill: films that tend to let the visuals overwhelm the story and characters. And make no mistake, Twelve Monkeys contains some of the most stunning images you are ever going to see but never at the expense of the story or its characters and herein lies one of the reasons why Gilliam remains one of the most interesting people working in film today.
Twelve Monkeys is a film that constantly plays with, distorts, and more often than not, manipulates time. The film begins in the year 2035. A deadly virus has wiped out almost all of humanity, leaving the survivors to take refuge deep underground. Only the occasional foray up to the surface in protective gear by a select group of “volunteers” offers any clues as to what went wrong. James Cole (Bruce Willis) is one such volunteer who is particularly good at retrieving information. As a result, he soon finds himself being sent back in time to find out how the virus originated and who was responsible. Unfortunately, he goes back too far, arriving in 1990 and is promptly thrown into a rather nightmarish mental hospital in Baltimore where he meets Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), a fellow inmate with a loopy sense of reality that feeds all sorts of paranoid delusions of grandeur. Cole also encounters Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) a beautiful doctor who feels sympathy for him and his plight.
As Cole travels back and forth in time he begins to realize that one of the most important clues to the source of the deadly virus may lie in the rather enigmatic underground organization known only as The Army of the 12 Monkeys. Soon, Railly and Goines begin to play integral roles in Cole’s search as he consistently crosses paths with them. But is this all taking place in Cole’s mind? Is he really humanity’s only hope at averting a catastrophic disaster or is he just insane? From the first shot to the film’s conclusion we are never quite sure of Cole’s sanity or lack thereof. It is just one of many questions that the audience must think about not only during the film but long after it ends.
The seeds of Twelve Monkeys lie in an obscure French New Wave film called La Jetee (1962) made by Chris Marker. The film was composed entirely of black and white photographs and set in Paris after World War III. It was an apocalyptic vision in reaction to the threat of nuclear annihilation that became prominent in the 1950s and 1960s. Writers David and Janet Peoples were approached by producer Robert Kosberg to do an adaptation of La Jetee. The screenwriting couple wasn’t that keen on the idea, however. “We couldn’t see the point. It’s a masterpiece and we didn’t see that there was anyway to translate that masterpiece,” David remarked in an interview. And he was no slouch to the art of screenwriting, having rewritten the screenplay for Blade Runner (1982) and penned the brilliant Clint Eastwood film, Unforgiven (1992).
Kosberg got the Peoples to watch La Jetee again and the couple began to see possibilities for a different, more detailed take on the material. “How would we react to people who showed up and said ‘Oh I’ve just popped up from the future’ and in turn how would that person deal with our reaction.” With this in mind, David and Janet set out to write a challenging piece of fiction that not only manipulated our conventional views of time but that also dealt with the notion of madness. Janet explained in an interview, “We were very interested in asking questions like ‘Is this man mad? And how about the prophets of the past, were they mad? Were they true prophets? Were they coming from another time? What are all the different possibilities?'” The film’s script argues that certain people who are classified insane by society at large may not really be crazy at all but are in actuality presenting ideas that are way ahead of our time. And perhaps the blame for this misunderstanding should be leveled at the psychiatric profession which, as one character in the film observes, has become the new religion of a society that has deserted traditional faith for modern technology.
After showing the finished screenplay to Marker and getting his blessings, the Peoples were faced with the daunting task of finding someone who would not only click with the material but also have the visual flair that the story needed. The couple figured that the only director to handle such tricky subject matter was somebody like Ridley Scott or Terry Gilliam. The theme of madness that plays such a prominent role in the script fit right in with Gilliam’s preoccupations and so he seemed the natural choice to direct. As luck would have it the filmmaker was between projects and looking for work after several years of seeing potential projects fall through for various reasons.
Gilliam was also eager to take a lot of Hollywood money (a $30 million budget) and create a strange art film that would fly in the face of the traditional mainstream movie. “The idea that someone’s writing a script like this in Hollywood and getting the studio to pay for it was pretty extraordinary. So I thought let’s continue to see how much money we can get the studio to spend.” Gilliam’s battles with Hollywood studios are the stuff of legend – most notably his struggle with Universal over the release of Brazil (1984). They wanted to revoke the director’s final cut privileges to insert a happier ending instead of Gilliam’s decidedly downbeat ending. Gilliam’s vision prevailed in the end, but the ordeal left him understandably wary of further studio involvement. He had reconciled somewhat with Hollywood by making The Fisher King (1991), which turned out to be a surprise commercial and critical success.
Architecture plays an important role in Gilliam’s films and Twelve Monkeys is no different. “I’ve always used architecture as if it was a character.” To this end, he found all sorts of intriguing architecture to populate his film. This included the transformation of an 1820s prison into a 1990s mental hospital where the film’s protagonist, James Cole first meets the Jeffrey Goines. The director found that the structure was designed like a wheel with spokes and hub. And so Gilliam used one section where three spoke-like parts headed off into nowhere. “It seemed to me [that] this trifurcated room was right for multiple personalities.” This feeling of madness is further amplified by the extensive use of skewed, off-kilter camera angles that are often shot at low angles to constantly distort and disorient the scene. “We started doing it and it got more and more fun to see how far we could push it because I wanted to create an atmosphere that you don’t know whether this guy is crazy or whether he actually does come back from the future.” The unusual camera angles not only mimic Cole’s confused state but also reflect Jeffrey’s manic, hyperactive worldview. By presenting the mindsets of these two characters in such a fashion, Gilliam is inviting us to see the world through their eyes and in the process offer a new, unique take on the world that we might not have been aware of before.
Gilliam was not just content to challenge mainstream audiences with unusual visuals and subject matter, but he also wanted to mess with people’s perception of certain movie stars by casting box office names like Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis against type. “One of the reasons [for doing Twelve Monkeys] was taking Bruce and putting him into situations and asking of him things I don’t think he’s ever done before or that people haven’t seen him do … and with Brad Pitt it’s the same thing. Brad is pretty laconic in some ways. Suddenly he’s a blabbermouth, jabbering away at high speed. I love doing that, playing with the public’s perception of that star; otherwise, it wouldn’t be fun.” As a result we get a very different Bruce Willis here than we have come to expect. Gone are the wisecracks and smart-aleck attitude and instead we see Willis impart a real wounded sensibility to the character of James Cole. The reluctant time traveler always seems to be flinching at every little thing, often appearing disoriented or distracted as he struggles to understand what is going on around him. Willis displays great skill in this role – perhaps the best of his career – as he creates a truly tragic figure that may or may not be losing his mind.
Brad Pitt’s character, Jeffrey Goines, resides at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. Where Cole is a sad, brooding figure, Goines is a frenetic psychotic oscillating wildly between paranoid ravings and calm interludes where his madness is kept in check but still resides behind wild eyes. It’s a daring performance for Pitt who lets it all hang out as he gladly chews up the scenery with his loony radical environmentalist cum revolutionary that all but steals every scene he’s in. It’s a performance that Pitt worked long and hard to achieve and it paid off in a Golden Globe Award that year for Best Supporting Actor and an Academy Award nomination in the same category.
It is easy to see what attracted Terry Gilliam to a project like Twelve Monkeys. In keeping with his past films, this one also played “with the same old things – time, reality, madness – so I was intrigued.” Even though it was one of the few projects he did not originate himself, Gilliam quickly made the film his own. In fact, it is Twelve Monkeys‘ unique look that prevents any easy categorization. As Gilliam observed in an interview, “I’m determined to make it indefinable.” It is this avoidance of any clear cut genre that makes the film a riddle waiting to be solved. The film is also structured somewhat like an onion. On the surface, the audience knows very little at the beginning, but gradually as it progresses and the layers are removed, more and more of the mystery is revealed. However, this is not readily apparent after an initial viewing. Only after subsequent screenings does the full impact and brilliance of what Gilliam and his cast and crew have created sink in. It is this great amount of care and detail that has clearly gone into this film that makes Twelve Monkeys worth watching.