Bruce Willis

Moonrise Kingdom (2012, Wes Anderson)

With Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson has finally put his directing craft so far ahead of his narrative, the narrative doesn’t matter. Neither, in Moonrise‘s case, do the actors. There isn’t a single outstanding performance in the film… maybe because Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola don’t write one. They’re to the point of using Jason Schwartzman as a gag cameo.

Moonrise is purposefully, aggressively artificial–Bob Balaban plays an omnipotent, future narrator who interacts with the characters. But it doesn’t really matter because Anderson’s craft is outstanding and the writing is still decent. A lot of the scenes between preteen outcasts Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are lovely.

Anderson shoots as much of the film as he can in profile; the camera pans to introduce new action instead of cutting. Partially due to the film’s artificiality–partially to Anderson and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman’s photography–it works. Moonrise isn’t supposed to be real. For instance, Tilda Swinton’s reduced to her job title.

Swinton’s no great shakes in the picture, but she’s not supposed to be. She’s gag casting, much like Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel. Keitel’s the best of those three. Bruce Willis and Edward Norton both do pretty well, though neither have enough material. Anderson and Coppola give Bill Murray absolutely nothing–he doesn’t even interact with his kids in the film, just barks near them. As his wife, Frances McDormand is better.

Moonrise Kingdom‘s a masterfully produced film. It’s just pointless, save demonstrating Anderson’s abilities as a director.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Wes Anderson; written by Anderson and Roman Coppola; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by Andrew Weisblum; music by Alexandre Desplat; production designer, Adam Stockhausen; produced by Anderson, Scott Rudin, Jeffrey Dawson and Steven M. Rales; released by Focus Features.

Starring Jared Gilman (Sam), Kara Hayward (Suzy), Edward Norton (Scout Master Ward), Bruce Willis (Captain Sharp), Bill Murray (Walt Bishop), Frances McDormand (Laura Bishop), Tilda Swinton (Social Services), Jason Schwartzman (Cousin Ben), Harvey Keitel (Commander Pierce) and Bob Balaban (Narrator).


Cop Out (2010, Kevin Smith)

It might be funny to kick Kevin Smith when he’s down–Cop Out, his first attempt at directing someone else’s script (after fifteen years of doing his own projects), bombed and then there was that whole thing with the airplane seating–but Cop Out‘s not his fault. Well, maybe Seann William Scott is Smith’s fault, but he makes up for him with Adam Brody and Kevin Pollak….

The two biggest problems with the film are the script and Tracy Morgan. The script’s unbearably stupid, like it’s intended to be a spoof of buddy cop movies and someone forgot to make it funny. Morgan’s playing a variation on his character from “30 Rock.” It’s never believable for a second he could hold a job (much less be a cop), have a friend (Willis comes off more like a babysitter) or a wife (I’m not sure if Rashida Jones is wasted in Cop Out or useless). During Morgan’s scenes, I kept wanting to slam my head against something, thinking a concussion might get me in the frame of mind to appreciate his performance.

But back to Brody and Pollak. The movie should have been about them. Smith’s trying to do some kind of a throwback to the eighties cop comedies, like Beverly Hills Cop–he even brings in Harold Faltermeyer to regurgitate his Fletch score. Brody’s young and eager and Pollak’s old and cynical. They banter, they have antics. It would have been great.

Instead, it’s not great. Instead, it’s completely insipid.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed and edited by Kevin Smith; written by Robb Cullen and Mark Cullen; director of photography, David Klein; music by Harold Faltermeyer; production designer, Michael Shaw; produced by Marc Platt, Polly Johnsen and Michael Tadross; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Bruce Willis (Jimmy), Tracy Morgan (Paul), Adam Brody (Barry Mangold), Kevin Pollak (Hunsaker), Ana de la Reguera (Gabriela), Guillermo Diaz (Poh Boy), Michelle Trachtenberg (Ava), Jason Lee (Roy), Francie Swift (Pam), Rashida Jones (Debbie) and Seann William Scott (Dave).


Red (2010, Robert Schwentke)

I was unhesitant to enjoy Red. It’s one of those ensemble feel-good pieces (like Sneakers or Ocean’s Eleven), but it’s not a particularly upbeat feel-good piece. But I was rather hesitant to approach it as a good movie. But it is a good movie. It’s smartly written, beautifully acted (Red’s casting is superior)… and impersonally directed. I’ve never seen any of Schwentke’s other films, but he’s a TV director inexplicably directing cinema. He’d be a fine TV director, he’s just not a filmmaker.

But Schwentke aside, there’s nothing not to recommend the film. However, I do think Bruce Willis going bald the last ten years makes it a little more difficult to take his balding as some sign of aging.

Red’s principal cast–Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich–is all exceptionally solid. It’s interesting to see Mirren in this kind of role (though she does it perfectly) and Malkovich is delightful in a role he easily could have played spoofing himself, but doesn’t. Freeman’s the mentor (to Willis) and Parker’s forty-something single woman has shades of Joan Wilder (in the best possible way).

The “supporting” cast consists of Karl Urban, Brian Cox, James Remar, Rebecca Pidgeon, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss. Whoever casted this film is a genius–if it was Schwentke, I’m a lot more enthusiastic.

Willis is most impressive in how well he works in an ensemble, never his greatest strength.

Red probably could do with a sequel. White?

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Robert Schwentke; screenplay by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber, based on the comic book by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner; director of photography, Florian Ballhaus; edited by Thom Noble; music by Christophe Beck; production design by Alec Hammond; produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Mark Vahradian; released by Summit Entertainment.

Starring Bruce Willis (Frank Moses), Morgan Freeman (Joe Matheson), John Malkovich (Marvin Boggs), Helen Mirren (Victoria), Karl Urban (William Cooper), Mary-Louise Parker (Sarah Ross), Brian Cox (Ivan Simonov), Julian McMahon (Robert Stanton), Rebecca Pidgeon (Cynthia Wilkes), Ernest Borgnine (Henry, the Records Keeper), James Remar (Gabriel Singer) and Richard Dreyfuss (Alexander Dunning).


Surrogates (2009, Jonathan Mostow)

So they take Bruce Willis and de-age him, but then they put Rosamund Pike in old age make-up? That one doesn’t make much sense.

Surrogates is another modern future concept movie–like iRobot or Minority Report–the future comes crashing down because of the movie star hero, there’s some kind of conspiracy involving the new technology, on and on it goes. Surrogates has a lot of potential, but it’s like Mostow doesn’t get it–they can throw people around and have them break, they can have this extensive chase scenes (robot vs. car), but Mostow only uses such devices sparingly.

The film runs less than ninety minutes and barely has time for one subplot, let alone any texture. The script’s, on a scenic level, okay; the film needed a firmer hand, kind of a mainstream Tati approach (the end reminds of Play Time, visually, for just a moment). Oliver Wood’s fantastic photography helps.

Surrogates doesn’t take any time to delve into the film’s society either–the concept of people piloting beautified versions of themselves around is incredibly interesting, but where are the broken down models people can’t afford to have repaired or the old ones. The logic only works when these robots equate to cars and the American devotion to them. But these aspects aren’t pitfalls, they’re missed opportunities. Instead of making a mainstream Play Time, it’s a Bruce Willis movie. And a short one.

It would have been amazing with Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, for example.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jonathan Mostow; screenplay by Michael Ferris and John Brancato, based on the comic book by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele; director of photography, Oliver Wood; edited by Kevin Stitt; music by Richard Marvin; production designer, Jeff Mann; produced by David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Max Handelman; released by Touchstone Pictures.

Starring Bruce Willis (Tom Greer), Radha Mitchell (Peters), Rosamund Pike (Maggie), Boris Kodjoe (Stone), James Francis Ginty (Canter), James Cromwell (Older Canter), Ving Rhames (the Prophet), Michael Cudlitz (Colonel Brendon) and Jack Noseworthy (Strickland).


Striking Distance (1993, Rowdy Herrington)

If it weren’t for the fantastic Brad Fiedel music (until the end credits) and the Pittsburgh locations (the city really is underutilized as a filming location, with Striking Distance taking fantastic advantage of its mix of urban, green and water), there’d be nothing to distinguish this one. It’s a B movie given a high profile because Bruce Willis is the star. Additionally, a lot of the supporting cast is solid and recognizable–but auteur Rowdy Herrington doesn’t have much control of them, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.

Willis, for instance, turns in a performance with less depth than if he were selling hair products (maybe to explain his strange, long in the back, pseudo-mullet in the film). Dennis Farina’s awful, clearly needing firmer direction. But Tom Sizemore and Robert Pastorelli are both good. Pastorelli’s actually great in some parts, running loose without having to worry about anyone telling him to stop. Brion James and John Mahoney are both solid in smaller parts. Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t at all believable as Willis’s partner, but she’s not terrible.

The film has, for such a solid production environment, some lame cinematography courtesy Mac Ahlberg, who shot a lot of B movies… so maybe it does fit. Herrington tries to combine a Bruce Willis cop movie with a serial killer thriller, but directed like a horror movie. It succeeds in being incredibly watchable, if completely unrewarding.

There’s a strange amount of bare chested Willis; his shirts apparently go to pieces on touch.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Rowdy Herrington; written by Herrington and Marty Kaplan; director of photography, Mac Ahlberg; edited by Pasquale Buba and Mark Helfrich; music by Brad Fiedel; production designer, Gregg Fonseca; produced by Arnon Milchan, Tony Thomopoulos and Hunt Lowry; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Bruce Willis (Det. Tom Hardy), Sarah Jessica Parker (Jo Christman), Dennis Farina (Capt. Nick Detillo), Tom Sizemore (Det. Danny Detillo), Brion James (Det. Eddie Eiler), Robert Pastorelli (Det. Jimmy Detillo), Timothy Busfield (Tony Sacco), John Mahoney (Lt. Vince Hardy), Andre Braugher (Dist. Atty. Frank Morris), Tom Atkins (Sgt. Fred Hardy), Mike Hodge (Capt. Penderman) and Jodi Long (Officer Kim Lee).


Last Man Standing (1996, Walter Hill)

Before Last Man Standing came out–when it was, presumably, going to be a hit because Willis was on one of his career upswings–I remember seeing Walter Hill say this film, his film, was going to improve on the source material (that source material being Kurosawa’s Yojimbo).

Hill borrows more liberally from the first remake of that film, A Fistful of Dollars, and adds some idiotic ingredients. The narration from Bruce Willis is atrocious, which isn’t a surprise, but worse is Willis’s performance. He got a big payday for this one and he’s clearly not interested in it, which isn’t surprising. It’s visibly–thanks to terrible performances from Bruce Dern, Ned Eisenberg, Michael Imperioli and Leslie Mann–a disaster. Hill’s script is full of lousy dialogue and is poorly paced, as he doesn’t seem to understand the viewer is going to recognize some of his “homage” to Dollars.

The music, from Ry Cooder, is awful. The opening, with it and Willis’s narration, would be enough to get up and walk out of the theater and demand a refund. It was a huge bomb (it barely made enough money in the States to cover Willis’s paycheck, let alone the other costs).

Hill doesn’t seem to understand what he should and shouldn’t be doing. Instead, he makes this confusing reality where the viewer has to participate instead of enjoy… and Willis brings zero charisma to the role. He does a lousy Clint Eastwood.

It’s not even worth watching as a curiosity.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Walter Hill; screenplay by Hill, based on a film by Kikushima Ryuzo and Kurosawa Akira; director of photography, Lloyd Ahern II; edited by Freeman A. Davies; music by Ry Cooder; production designer, Gary Wissner; produced by Hill and Arthur M. Sarkissian; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Bruce Willis (John Smith), Bruce Dern (Sheriff Ed Galt), William Sanderson (Joe Monday), Christopher Walken (Hickey), David Patrick Kelly (Doyle), Karina Lombard (Felina), Ned Eisenberg (Fredo Strozzi), Alexandra Powers (Lucy Kolinski), Michael Imperioli (Giorgio Carmonte), Ken Jenkins (Capt. Tom Pickett), R.D. Call (Jack McCool), Ted Markland (Deputy Bob), Leslie Mann (Wanda) and Patrick Kilpatrick (Finn).


Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan)

Talking about Die Hard is complicated for lots of reasons. Besides Aliens, I think it’s the best popular action film ever made and, given when it came out, it’s very familiar. It shouldn’t be full of surprises and, in many ways, is not (though Theo and Karl having a bet on Takagi is something new to me. So instead, when watching it, it’s an appreciatory experience, rather than a–it’s still critical, but since I’m not looking to assign a value, since I know the value, I’m trying to understand how it works.

Die Hard features brutal, terrible villains. Not at all likable, but there’s almost a Helsinki syndrome with them. Theo’s funny, Karl’s crazy, Hans is great to watch. The bad guys prove more entertaining than the “good guys,” with the standard exceptions of Willis and Reginald VelJohnson. That level is always in the film, regardless of what number viewing a person is having. The “Die Hard on a dot dot dot” action movie, which has almost become every action movie (except, oddly the last two Die Hard sequels), ignores the most interesting parts of the film. Villains who are fun to watch not because of their villainy, but because the characters are bad, but entertaining. There’s also the question of the short present action. The movie starts with Willis getting there and ends with him leaving. The situation (Willis visiting estranged wife) provides for a perfect exploration of the characters, without needless exposition.

But there’s also the developing relationships through the film. The dumb cop eventually becoming… friendly (only after the dumber FBI agents show up). McTiernan directs a confined story better than anyone I can think of–because he inserts the viewer in the building with the characters… But the viewer isn’t tied down to Willis, the viewer gets to move….

There’s an element of privilege to the film. Lots of the moments Willis gets–the quiet ones–are privileged moments (which makes the lack of respect for his acting at this point in his career a tad surprising), but they don’t compare to some of the other ones. Like when Bedelia sees her practically demolished husband at the end. Just her expression brings Die Hard to a level of reality, even with the jokes, even with explosions, very few films–none featuring off-duty cops with automatic weapons–ever reach. The film encompasses the viewer in a singular way, something none of the imitators (or sequels) could duplicate.

Obviously, Rickman is outstanding and Willis is great–the most interesting thing about the two is the lack of desperate struggle. By giving Willis Alexander Godunov as a nemesis, his relationship with Rickman becomes far more interesting. Godunov is, of course, a joy to watch.

I think the only acting surprise was De’voreaux White, who I never think about doing a great job, but does.

McTiernan’s never duplicated the quality, influence or depth of Die Hard–the understanding of people relating to one another–but then, screenwriters Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza have never even come close… because another sterling aspect of the film is the conversations between the characters.

I didn’t do a particularly good job with this post but I don’t have to. Because Die Hard is, to quote a friend (on a different subject), undeniable. And because, once the experience is over… it’s hard to talk about.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John McTiernan; screenplay by Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza, based on a novel by Roderick Thorp; director of photography, Jan de Bont; edited by John F. Link and Frank J. Urioste; music by Michael Kamen; production designer, Jackson De Govia; produced by Lawrence Gordon and Joel Silver; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Bruce Willis (John McClane), Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber), Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Al Powell), Alexander Godunov (Karl), Bonnie Bedelia (Holly Gennero McClane), Paul Gleason (Deputy Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson), William Atherton (Richard Thornburg), De’voreaux White (Argyle), Hart Bochner (Harry Ellis), Dennis Hayden (Eddie), Clarence Gilyard Jr. (Theo), James Shigeta (Joseph Yoshinobu Takagi), Robert Davi (FBI Special Agent Johnson) and Grand L. Bush (FBI Agent Johnson).


The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990, Brian De Palma)

It’s amazing anyone could screw up The Bonfire of the Vanities–and I’m only making that statement based on the movie and the material in it (never having read the book)–but if anyone was going to do it, adapter Michael Cristofer is the one to do it. When the movie started–it has a beautiful opening title sequence, followed by a wonderful De Palma steady-cam shot (the following seventeen million steady-cam shots are not, unfortunately, wonderful)–I thought David Mamet wrote the screenplay and the worst I was really in for was a bad Melanie Griffith performance.

Was I wrong.

Blaming Cristofer for all the film’s problems–even the majority of them–is a mistake. The producer–oh, it’s De Palma, how convenient–or the executive producer who didn’t realize making Bruce Willis’s reporter the main character would create a fantastic black comedy are the ones who made the biggest mistake. Whoever saw Tom Hanks’s performance the first day of shooting and didn’t realize he had to go (Hanks essentially plays the same character he did in Volunteers, only without the humor… it’s painful), that person made the second biggest mistake. The film’s potential as a black comedy, the media circus version of Wag the Dog (there’s a second Mamet reference), set in New York City, with Willis’s detached, smug performance (perfect for the role), and a Dave Grusin score. It’s a shame De Palma got a hold of this picture. It’s from Warner, so I’m going to guess Cristofer was set for the project regardless of director (Cristofer just coming off Witches of Eastwick), which is a still serious defect but a good director for the project would have known to eighty-six him.

De Palma tries real hard to make Vanities visually interesting; he’s got Vilmos Zsigmond wasting time with those endless steady-cam shots I mentioned earlier and I guess they’re supposed to substitute for creativity. De Palma simply cannot direct much of the script, the human scenes between people, the comedic scenes. He just can’t do it. When he does, it looks like a UHF commercial for carpet-cleaning. The movie’s also atrociously edited.

Like I said, Willis is good and if he’d run the whole show, the movie would have been good. Hanks is bad, though he gets a little betterå towards the end. Griffith isn’t good, isn’t bad. She’s occasionally funny (but, of course, De Palma doesn’t know what to do with it). Kim Cattrall is awful (again, De Palma’s fault for not understanding comedy). Kevin Dunn is really good… Morgan Freeman is wasting time. Saul Rubinek starts good, ends bad (again, has more to do with direction and lack of script–I was stunned to read Rubinek’s character was one of the novel’s central figures).

I think there’s some other stuff I really liked in the movie, but I can’t remember it right now. The Bonfire of the Vanities has got to be De Palma’s biggest failure, artistically speaking, since he didn’t approach it with anything but contrived, bestseller-to-blockbuster mentality… it’s unfortunate.

1/4

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Brian De Palma; screenplay by Michael Cristofer, based on the novel by Tom Wolfe; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by David Ray and Bill Pankow; music by Dave Grusin; production designer, Richard Sylbert; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Tom Hanks (Sherman McCoy), Bruce Willis (Peter Fallow), Melanie Griffith (Maria Ruskin), Kim Cattrall (Judy McCoy), Saul Rubinek (Jed Kramer), Morgan Freeman (Judge Leonard White), John Hancock (Reverend Bacon), Kevin Dunn (Tom Killian), Clifton James (Albert Fox), Louis Giambalvo (Ray Andruitti), Barton Heyman (Detective Martin), Norman Parker (Detective Goldberg) and Donald Moffat (Mr. McCoy).


The Fifth Element (1997, Luc Besson)

The last time I saw a Luc Besson movie and thought it was really good, I tried watching Joan of Arc. Then I stopped exploring his filmography. This time, therefore, I’m prepared. I haven’t seen The Fifth Element in years and I’m not sure why. Considering its cast, it’s something of a breath of fresh air. Ian Holm has either disappeared from cinema in the last five years or I’m just no longer seeing movies he acts in anymore, which is entirely possible. So it was really nice to see him (I feel terrible, like I’m suggesting he’s turned in to Brian Cox or someone–I’m sure he hasn’t). Bt the film also features Chris Tucker’s incredibly annoying, which is the point, performance and I remember it made me wish he’d do other supporting roles like it. then he got really big so it’ll never happen. Too bad.

But the film also features a great Bruce Willis performance. It’s so much fun–Willis has his action hero schtick, but Fifth Element finally lets him do it in a comedy and a good one. The most impressive thing about the film, besides Eric Serra’s music maybe, is Besson’s understanding of timing. for a film with major pacing issues (more in a second), The Fifth Element is perfectly timed. Willis and Milla Jovovich really work well together in the film because Willis is able to alternate from a caring, paternal figure (gee, wonder if the age difference has anything to do with it?) and the romantic interest and because Jovovich’s character is an alien, his concern works. I don’t think he’s ever done so much work as a romantic lead as he does in this one and he’s great. Jovovich is also quite good–and not for the female action star reasons she’s good today, which suggests Besson just directed her well and maybe the role wasn’t very hard. But she’s good.

Now for the two problems. First, whoever they got to do the voice of Bruce Willis’s mother on the phone was the wrong choice. His character doesn’t work with an annoying mother. Maybe if he had an Uncle Leo, but not a mother. every time it comes up (three times, I think) it wallops the film with an aluminum baseball bat.

The second problem has to do with the pacing. Like I said, the film is perfectly timed–it’s one of those “hang out” movies Tarantino says he wants to make and never seems quite able to pull off–but it’s too slight. It’s too fast for everything going on and needs another fifteen minutes throughout. The ending is great in a way I’d see more Luc Besson films if I didn’t know better, but it’s not as good as it could be… the material before it doesn’t deserve it.

Willis… Jovovich… Holm… Tucker… I need to say something about Gary Oldman. Oldman’s gotten to be something of a punch-line (well, not really something of one) in the last ten years, but he’s fantastic as a villainous French (?) industrialist who speaks with a Texas accent. Either he had a great time doing it or he faked it really well. He is fun to watch in the film, just to see what he’s going to do next, which no longer describes his acting at all.

Maybe I’m just in the mood for long films right now, but I didn’t want The Fifth Element to end. I was enjoying it too much (Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who write terrible action movies together, somehow turned in a fantastic script).

But, still… I must remember… never, ever try to watch Joan of Arc.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Luc Besson; written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, based on a story by Besson; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Sylvie Landra; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Dan Weil; produced by Patrice Ledoux; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Bruce Willis (Korben Dallas), Gary Oldman (Zorg), Ian Holm (Cornelius), Milla Jovovich (Leeloo), Chris Tucker (Ruby Rhod), Luke Perry (Billy), Brion James (General Munro), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (President Lindberg), Lee Evans (Fog), Charlie Creed-Miles (David), Tricky (Right Arm), John Neville (General Staedert), John Bluthal (Professor Pacoli) and Mathieu Kassovitz (Mugger).


Twelve Monkeys (1995, Terry Gilliam)

Twelve Monkeys is one of the more unhappy films. Unhappy films are difficult to pull off–The Godfather Part II is the finest example–but Monkeys does it. When I say unhappy, I don’t mean a sad ending or an unpleasing one or an unrewarding one. Not even a cynical or downbeat one. An unhappy film, if it does its job, sucks the empathy from the viewer and chucks it in an incinerator. The unhappy film leaves the viewer spent and unwilling to try again. They’re tragedies in the truest form and films, being the most commercial form of fiction–in a reasonable sense, I’m not counting television (with some notable exceptions, of course)–tend not to go too far in to real tragedy. A person wouldn’t want to see it again or, more modernly, double-dip on the DVD releases. To do it right is to make an experience worth the draining effect. These films are not infrequent (at least not during the period Monkeys was made), but they are somewhat occasional.

Monkeys has something else to make it a rarity, anyway. It has a script from David Webb Peoples, who hasn’t had a new script produced since Monkeys came out in 1995. While Gilliam might bring the mood of the film, the sets, the warped technology (and, according to IMDb, Willis and Pitt’s excellent performances), the Peoples (and Peoples, written with his wife) script brings the perfect plot structure–including a fantastic, three-act structured forty minute first act–and the romance.

If Gilliam is responsible for getting Willis’s great performance out of him, the Peoples got the stunning work out of Madeleine Stowe. I’m a big Stowe fan, lamenting her absence from cinema on a weekly basis, but I’d forgotten her performance in this film. It’s easily one of the finest performances in the 1990s, but probably since then too. Stowe’s function in the film is to convince the audience and she takes it to a level beyond, the one where it’s possible for Twelve Monkeys to be so depressing, but also so rewarding.

The film moves through time and frequent settings–whether the future or mental hospitals–the first act definitely establishes some common grounds. Then Stowe and Willis go on the road–the only defect has got to be some of the blue-screened driving composites, I was hoping they were some homage to Hitchcock, but I don’t think so–even though the settings still repeat and become the familiar, the terrain the film crosses in to is new. There’s a scene in the woods with Stowe and Willis fighting–she’s kicking him–and I realized I was watching a wholly unique moment of cinema. The best moment in the film, direction-wise, is that scene in the woods (as well as the scene returning to the woods). Gilliam is showing the viewer something he or she cannot see anywhere else; more, it’s impossible to incapsulate–to get the most from that scene, one has to watch what comes before and what comes after, regardless of how it turns out–which is what makes Twelve Monkeys one of those films. The rewards are in appreciating it.

Sometimes I think I’m remembering wrong and the 1990s wasn’t such a superior decade for filmmaking. Then I watch a film like Twelve Monkeys.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Terry Gilliam; written by David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples, based on the film La Jetée by Chris Marker; director of photography, Roger Pratt; edited by Mick Audsley; music by Paul Buckmaster; production designer, Jeffrey Beecroft; produced by Charles Roven; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Bruce Willis (James Cole), Madeleine Stowe (Kathryn Railly), Brad Pitt (Jeffrey Goines), Christopher Plummer (Dr. Goines), David Morse (Dr. Peters), Frank Gorshin (Dr. Fletcher), Jon Seda (Jose) and Joseph Melito (Young James).


Scroll to Top