12 Monkeys (1995)

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12 Monkeys (1995)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 13, 2010 8:56 pm

This was a remake of the old short French sci-fier from 1962, La Jetee, about time travel. It was also a chance for director Terry Gilliam (Brazil 1985) to graft his peculiar style and sensibilities onto a conventional sci-fi plot: in the future, year 2035, the main character and eventual time traveler Cole, played by Bruce Willis, is one of the few survivors existing in a desolate, very dystopic Philadelphia, mostly underground (a similar society had been set up by  George Lucas in THX-1138/1971). He only ventures above when the ruling scientists send him foraging for clues on the virus that wiped out most of humanity back in 1996. The city above ground is deserted, except for an occasional wild animal. He's selected to travel back to '96 to obtain an original virus sample but ends up in 1990. He encounters a doctor (Madeleine Stowe) and a mental patient (Brad Pitt).  Apparently, the deadly virus was spread by a terrorist organization named the Army of the Twelve Monkeys.

The other factor to this tale involves Cole's dreams of some kind of event at an airport and that this was actually an event from his childhood. In effect, he is (it's revealed by the end) caught in his own personal time loop.  This is nothing new in science fiction (though it was fairly innovative back in '62). What sets this apart, as with all Gilliam films, is the visual style - there's a lot of tactile imagery, most of it rather unpleasant. The characters mostly service the plot and the visuals, though Gilliam manages to get a forceful performance out of Stowe and an eccentric one out of Pitt, who is usually manic, a lunatic, though I got a little tired of him by his 3rd appearance.  Willis is shell-shocked for much of this and otherwise boring (as is usual for him unless it's a Die Hard role).  Also small roles for Frank Gorshin (the Riddler on Batman TV show) and David Morse.  There's one other intriguing aspect to all this - the possibility that Cole is just delusional in regards to all the scenes in the future. Unfortunately, the film is on the slow side. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10

Trivia of the Monkeys: another new incarnation of this tale, a TV series, came about in early 2015, on the SyFy Channel...
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