5 Go apelascenara17 | 15/11/2008 | See all lascenara17's reviews (97)Terry Gilliam is infamous for being more hit-and-miss than even the latter day Francis Ford Coppola, but even his detractors will agree that when he gets it right he creates dazzling, mesmeric cinematic canon.Working at his best with vast and infinite themes, Gilliam feels comfortable and innovative with the subject of time-travel and the circular placement and references to visual and aural motifs. Throughout the film tiny bits of information are highlighted as remnants of the past, or the future, but ultimately they never really explain anything. Instead, we, as groups or individuals, must make up our minds about everything that happens, from the smallest to the largest of events.Taking time travel and altering realities as contextual touchstones, the film mainly concerns itself with the human reactions to madness. Bruce Willis' 'Cole' and Madeleine Stowe's 'Kathryn' begin to exchange their mental states repeatedly throughout the film, whilst Brad Pitt's clearly mental 'Jeffrey' at times seems the only one who has a set direction to travel in. These actions throw up the debate about whether realities are conjured in some or all of the minds of the characters or whether they're living in the real world, as manufactured by someone else.Heavy and confusing stuff, but with a powering narrative the audience is encouraged to combine their thoughts with new ones conjured by the extraordinary visuals. Granted, most of the film takes place in a mundane Philadelphia but the sudden bursts of dirty futurism, coupled with queasy and intruding camerawork totally offbalance any comfort in watching without being challanged. Gilliam's mantra has always been to rile and incite the audience to think actively and this is exactly how he constructs the film.Performances in such a movie are usually built to order. Pitt is reliably committed to being the most genuine nutcase this side of 'Cuckoo's Nest', while Willis shines as the mentally fractured convict 'Cole' who slowly starts to piece a realistic future for himself. Stowe is also an underrated talent, riffing off both Pitt's craziness and Willis' fragile humanity.As a final touch the film alludes to many facets of pop culture, albeit in sly, covert ways that prick on the occasional intelligence one might posess. The most obvious example is the homage to Hitchcock's 'Vertigo', complete with green suit and red lighting, perfectly mirroring that film's own analysis on the elastic extremeties of the human mind.This is not a film for anyone hungering after entertainment, or for fans of either Willis or Pitt. This is a film for fans of intellectually strong and meditative films that dare to question issues outside the picture screen. And of course, it's an assured must for Gilliam fans themselves. One of cinema's true Chinese puzzle boxes.