In all honesty, I had forgotten that Terry Gilliam had directed this 1995 film. This isn’t to say that 12 Monkeys
is forgettable. I guess I like Terry when his films are full of fantastic images and extremely far-fetched premises.
In all honesty, 12 Monkeys was a film that I started watching and quit, because it just seemed too dark for me. The beginning is a disturbing shot as Bruce Willis’ character, James Cole, is imprisoned with others. A giant metal claw comes down and plucks him up for an experiment. It’s as if humanity has become the mice that they do experiments on. As it turns out, Cole is sort of a guinea pig for an experiment which involves time travel.
Okay, I’ve talked about time travel movies before. Some of you might remember my review of Looper
, also staring Bruce Willis. I said there that most time travel movies generally boil down to somebody going back in time and altering something, which often leads to a scene where they have to go back again and “fix” this.
I would have to say that 12 Monkeys essentially follows this plotline. In the future, some terrible disease wipes out a huge majority of humanity, so that the small handful of them have to live underground. Apparently, some group of scientists are in-control of subterranean future Earth, and they have somehow perfected time travel. I have no idea why most societies after the apocalypse seem to perfect time travel such as in the Terminator series, but it may have to do with them having too much time on their hands, coupled with the fact that they want to prevent the apocalypse.
I don’t know if we know what James Cole was imprisoned for, but apparently, he is used for time travel. I don’t know why the oligarchy scientists don’t send one of their own, as this mission seems important. Apparently, Cole is supposed to find out information about the virus that wiped out most of humanity. The scientists believe that some animal rights group called the Army of Twelve Monkeys is responsible for the virus, which explains the title.
James Cole arrives in the nineties and ends up in a mental institution where he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly. The two of them end up on the road and they meet Jeffrey Goines, played by the one and only Brad Pitt as Jeffrey Goines. Brad Pitt plays this role so well as over-the-top crazy, and Madeline Stowe as Dr. Railly is also good.
The thing that remember about this movie, and something I will praise it for is that the film has times where one doubts whether or not James Cole is from the future or is simply just plain crazy. I always like films that can do this, and flicks like Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, and others teach us that we can’t trust what the camera shows us.
Well, there is only three ways a film like this can end. Either James Cole really is crazy, or he is not. There is an alternative one that leaves the actual truth deliberately ambiguous. I’m not going to say which ending it went with, but I can say that it is quite satisfying.
I would be remiss in my report of this movie if I did not mention that the SyFy network is planning a series based on 12 Monkeys. Of course, it will not follow the story exactly, maybe. Personally, I think the story should exist as one film, rather than stretch it out as a saga.