For Saturday, Elsa S. Customer suggests Twelve Monkeys (in Sci Fi/Fantasy). Perhaps Terry Gilliam’s most accessible film to date, Twelve Monkeys is also one of his most poignant and touching stories. Bruce Willis turns in a remarkable performance as James Cole, a hapless convict from the post-apocalyptic future, where the survivors of a viral plague subsist underground. Cole is forced into a hazardous “volunteer” mission to research the origins of the epidemic; his ghastly superiors cackle as they cram him into a perilous and dauntingly imprecise time machine intended to shoot him back to 1996, just before the outbreak. Jettisoned into the past, Cole collides with psychiatrist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and mental patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), to disastrous effect. While most time travel films try to sidestep or downplay their almost inevitable loops and impossibilities, Twelve Monkeys hangs its entire narrative upon a few perfect ontological
paradoxes, which makes its sorrow all the more affecting. But there is real joy, both narrative and creative, in this grotesque tale. Bruce Willis acts his heart out, shifting tone with perfect pitch: hauntingly still, tragically vulnerable, criminally brutal, or bursting with a simple, infectious glee. Madeleine Stowe mixes keen intelligence with compassion, and perfectly portrays Kathryn’s confusion to find herself teetering on the edge between skepticism and belief. Brad Pitt is a whirlwind as Jeffrey, the mad would-be revolutionary, submerging into the mayhem of the character and bringing it out in force.