You can always tell a Terry Gilliam film. They’re invariably interesting, but often the sheer quantity of ideas competing for your attention and the strain of keeping everything cohesive for the duration means you’ll finish watching it sadly thinking “almost”.
From being the “other” member of the Monty Python troupe largely tasked with playing grotesque bit parts and interspersing sketches with anarchic animated segments, Terry Gilliam graduated to feature film direction and carved out his own unique path in both the British and Hollywood film industries. Gilliam never compromises on his vision and has paid for it multiple times over his career, some projects taking years to get off the ground or eventually arriving compromised in one way or another.
In The Film Magazine’s latest Ranked list of a director’s entire body of work, we are looking at the mischievous animator, satirist and once Python who is sometimes prone to get completely lost in his own imagination. These are all 13 Terry Gilliam directed features ranked.
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13. The Brothers Grimm (2005)
Conman brothers (Heath Ledger and Matt Damon) arrive in a town under the shadow of a terrible curse and must become reluctant heroes.
Adapting the lives of the famous German author siblings into a story not that far removed from their own macabre fairy tale-spinning sensibilities, The Brothers Grimm sounded like a fascinating prospect on the page at least.
The final film is fine, but it has a tone problem and takes too much time to settle on what it is trying to be. Even the combined charm of Ledger and Damon as the titular siblings can’t save it from being a bit muddy and samey.
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12. The Zero Theorem (2013)
In a dystopian future, a reclusive programmer (Christoph Waltz) is ordered by his shadowy overlords to prove that life, the universe and everything is meaningless.
Terry Gilliam’s long-awaited return to steampunk science fiction 18 years after Twelve Monkeys and 28 years after Brazil was probably never going to meet sky-high expectations.
This definitely has the right look and feel to make it of a piece with Gilliam’s 80s and 90s classics but, despite the best efforts of a thoroughly weird Waltz leading an ensemble of entertaining character actors, this leaves you feeling oddly cold and disconnected.