Inspired by Chris Marker's benchmark 1962 short film La Jetee, director Terry Gilliam continues his examination of the real versus the surreal in this mind-bending piece of science fiction. In a vein typical of Gilliam's oeuvre, the film leaps through time almost at will, which produces uneven results. Obviously a play on genre conventions, 12 Monkeys succeeds at creating its various worlds (all with various degrees of grunge and gloom). However, the film spirals off in so many directions it's sometimes a trial to keep track -- but it's also this very quality that keeps it interesting and engaging. Very much a visceral film above all else, Gilliam extracts solid turns from his actors, including a nicely understated Bruce Willis and a cheerfully (and entertainingly) manic Brad Pitt, a surprise Oscar nominee for his supporting role. Almost ten years after the highly publicized director vs. studio debacle with the director's acclaimed 1985 film Brazil, Gilliam and Universal had obviously patched things up, as they distributed this film to great financial success and a place as one of the leading cult favorites of the 1990s.