Monday, September 20, 2010

Oh, wouldn't it be great if I was crazy? Then the world would be ok

No 465 – 12 Monkeys
Director – Terry Gilliam


The future world seen in 12 Monkeys feels like a natural follow on from the future of Brazil. Industrial insanity and large magnifying lenses appear in a world that seems mostly bureaucratic and authoritarian. It is what we want from Gilliam and it is the visual style which is carried on with Jeunet and Caro in their sci-fi worlds. But here we also get to witness the artistic skill of Terry Gilliam. The stark beauty of the isolated snow dusted city – the visual insanity of a lion prowling the roofs of long abandoned state buildings. This is a beautiful post-apocalypse.



The apocalypse in question is the release of deadly chemicals by a group called the 12 Monkeys – and Bruce Willis’ Cole (a prisoner for an unstated crime) is sent back in time to try and find the source of the disaster and infiltrate the 12 Monkeys.

I want to play it a bit carefully, because once Cole goes back in time the plot gets VERY complicated and I don’t want to spoil it by describing in too much detail.

However, Cole is drugged up, 4th dimensionally jet lagged and talking about the future. He is, rather naturally, institutionalised. However he is put in one of the coldest and most savage asylums I’ve ever seen in a film. Its all pretty bleak. Also locked up is Brad Pitt's skew eyed Jeffrey Goines. A sort of mega-mad proto-Durden. His rants about public perception, power and consumerism put Goines in the same class as Durden, just without the mental stability to be able to hold it in or handle it. The two speak and a series of Paradoxes occur. So, from this point on I refuse to speak about the plot besides saying, that what happens is that Cole begins flitting in and out of time at certain points in order to make sure he can catch the terrorists.

He also spends time trying to warn the head of a large animal testing plant that someone will steal their biological warfare samples. It is here we meet Captain Von Trapp and, my personal favourite character of the whole film: David Morse in a very fetching ginger wig.

The film has to be applauded for having some great ideas, and whilst the execution of some of those ideas has dated, most of the film is still really fresh and exciting. There are some weird bits (the 'raspy voice' seems a bit of a strange one) - but it handles time travel in an understandable way.

And it has a gloriously fucked up ending.