directed by Terry Gilliam
starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt
After Terry Gilliam’s flop Munchhausen he struggled to regain Hollywood credibility and ditch his reputation of “Hard to work with” and “Blows budgets.” Gilliam next picked up on this odd time travel story based on French time travel movie Le Jetee and scored mega-star Bruce Willis as the lead. Shot in Philadelphia in an abandoned power plant, this retro-future looking film explores time travel and all the weird causality dislocations it offers. A plague ravished the earth and Cole (Willis) is sent to stop it, but arrives at a much earlier time where his wild story and shaved head look gets him locked in the looney bin with Brad Pitt. There’s action, there weirdness, and there’s way more plot than I can squeeze in here, and you wouldn’t believe me anyway. No one ever believes a time travel. It’s my curse. I mean… it’s their curse. Sorry about the slip.
While the plot is rather confusing, the visuals rock with weirdly lit mega-machinery and a misplace menagerie of circus animals loose on the snowy streets of Philadelphia. We fly many galaxies away from the slick spaceship sci-fi earlier days and instead are covered with filth and rust and a sense of “WTF over?” The special features are at least as good as the film, showing Gilliam pushing his team to the edge, but resulted in an effective if not wildly popular journey. Gilliam insisted on a small gerbil running in a wheel for one critical scene. Look close and the little guy is there, jogging his teeny heart out. A minor philosophical debate centers on the question “Is this a Bruce Willis film or a Terry Gilliam film?” My takes is it Gilliam film until release, then the director fades and actors’ soar. Here’s a spoiler: Gilliam has the honor of killing Willis on screen; that was a Hollywood first. Willis’s performance is excellent if not what you are used to, and the who film reeks of 1984 desolated with layers of improbable probability. This is what our future might look like, seen for what it almost certainly wasn’t in our past. Yeah, that confuses me as well. Time travel – worse than Hartsfield on a rainy day.