There are two words why I've rated "Twelve Monkeys" a "C"...Bruce Willis.
In perhaps the most demanding role of his career, Willis offers the emotional resonance primarily through shrieks and yelps. Bruce, my dear one, that is not acting...it is yelling. There is a difference...well, at least there's a difference in a film such as this one.
I needed to watch "Twelve Monkeys" again to remind myself what didn't work for me...It is a film that is so respected, enjoyed and admired by so many people I respect. I still respect you...hopefully, you still respect me. I respect Brad Pitt...he's incredibly awesome here and nearly pushes this film into the "B" range on his own...I even respect Madeleine Stowe. She offers her best performance outside of "Closet Land" in this film...it's a damn fine performance.
I respect director Terry Gilliam for tackling a challenging film such as this one...in fact, I can definitely say that in my second viewing of this film I "got" things I didn't get the first time. Yet, as in my first viewing, I still didn't care. I didn't care largely because of the lack of authenticity that Willis brings to the character of James Cole. I didn't care about his challenges, journey, problems, etc...and when I don't care about the main character then the film never reaches beyond average. I don't care how smart the script is...how clever the directing...I have to care and I didn't.
Basically, the story "centers" around a convict who is sent back in time to stop a devastating plague but ends up being sent back too far and is hospitalized as insane. For the record, I've assessed people for mental illness for the last 10 years...Willis would NOT have been hospitalized for insanity. He was not insane...personality disorder? perhaps...but not insane.
Other than Willis, the performances here are uniformly solid. This film certainly doesn't qualify as entertainment, however, that is clearly not its goal. It is a dark film on a dark subject and its production design fits beautifully (though appears a bit too "low budget" at times).
I really thought upon a second viewing my opinion might change...I thought it might be one of "those" films...it just needed to grow on me. Nope. Quite simply, I didn't buy into Willis' performance and that failure drops this film considerably into the land of what I consider to be an average film.
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