• Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in Terry Gilliam's modern sci-fi classic 'Twelve Monkeys', showing on SBS Viceland this Saturday, 22nd December (SBS Movies)

 In the year 2035, an unknown virus has wiped out 99 percent of earth’s population. A criminal reluctantly volunteers to be sent back in time to determine the origin of the epidemic, and obtain information that may contain the spread of the virus. He is accidentally sent back six years earlier than expected, and is arrested and locked up in a mental institution, where he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist, and Jeffrey Goines, the insane son of a famous scientist and virus expert.

4
A remarkable re-imagining of a classic conceit.

Watch David and Margaret's original review of the movie, above, and scroll down for an illuminating interview with Terry Gilliam and star Bruce Willis.  

Any films of Terry Gilliam's is a visual treat, and this one's no exception. It's based on the 1962 film La Jetée, by French filmmaker Chris Marker, about a post-apocalyptic future, in which one of the few human survivors is volunteered to be transported back to the present to try to avert the disaster which spells the end of civilisation as we know it. The man Cole, played by Bruce Willis, is chosen because he has a memory, a dream from the past, which facilitates transportation. Back in the '90s, Cole finds himself in a mental hospital being treated by Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), with fellow inmate Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), who's just as paranoid about the future as Cole is.

While Gilliam sets the mood and the tension right at the start, he's not totally successful at maintaining it. The story is by its nature quite confusing, but Gilliam lets it develop more into an action movie using chases and confrontations for excitement. It's possibly too dour for most fans of Bruce Willis and action films, but there's a visual exhilaration, a challenging concept, and some adequate performances to make Twelve Monkeys well worth seeing. Willis's ability to play fragile is used to good advantage, Brad Pitt is possibly a trifle over the top, Madeleine Stowe is a beautiful as ever.

David: The thing about any Terry Gilliam's films, is that he does have a vision, and he does have a way of telling his stories, which is fairly unique to him I think, and it's amazing to me how he turns La Jetée, which is one of my favourite movies of all times, into really quite an exciting extrapolation of the original. He makes it continually intriguing, and yes it's a bit dense at times, and chaotic... 

Watch: Terry Gilliam and Bruce Willis talk 'Twelve Monkeys', 'La Jetée' and time travel 

 

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