An unknown and lethal virus has wiped out five billion people in 1996. Only 1% of the population has survived by the year 2035, and is forced to live underground. A convict (James Cole) reluctantly volunteers to be sent back in time to 1996 to gather information about the origin of the epidemic (who he's told was spread by a mysterious "Army of the Twelve Monkeys") and locate the virus before it mutates so that scientists can study it. Unfortunately Cole is mistakenly sent to 1990, six years earlier than expected, and is arrested and locked up in a mental institution, where he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist, and Jeffrey Goines, the insane son of a famous scientist and virus expert.Written by
Giancarlo Cairella <email@example.com>
The two newscasters shown in the film were actual newscasters on Philadelphia's Channel 10 news at the time of filming. See more »
The bear is lit by a flashlight before Cole picks the flashlight up. See more »
Jose - psst! Jose, what's going on?
Bad news, man
Yeah. And they said your name.
Hey, maybe they'll give you a pardon, man.
Yeah, that's why none of the volunteers come back. They all get a pardon.
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The symbol of the 12 Monkeys provides the backdrop for the opening and closing credits. See more »
A convict from the year 2035 is assigned a mission in order to win parole. He is sent back in time by a group of scientists to try and discover the source of a fatal plague that wiped out most of the human race. A plague which did not kill animals. In his travels he discovers mysterious graffiti announcing the arrival of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys.
Terry Gilliam has always been an interesting film director and visual stylist even when some of his movies are uneven. With 12 Monkeys he perhaps produces his most wholly satisfying work. It's a consistently compelling mystery within the framework of a time-travelling sci-fi narrative. It's a fairly complex story, so attention is demanded of the viewer. This is perhaps the chief strength of the film, however, as the labyrinthine narrative is one that benefits from multiple viewings. There are still some elements of ambiguity even at the end, so it's a film that actively encourages discussion.
There's a good cast too. Bruce Willis was on a bit of a run in the mid 90's and this is one of the great films he appeared in at the height of his powers. On the other hand, it's one of the first films where Brad Pitt was allowed to display his acting chops and show that he was a lot more than just a pretty face. While in visual terms, it's as interesting as you would expect from a Gilliam movie; although not as phantasmagorical as some of his more personal fantasy features. In 12 Monkeys he was a director for hire but it's not immediately obvious. Perhaps the distance this gave him actually helped instill some discipline that made the whole more cohesive on the whole. Whatever the case, this is an excellent sci-fi film with a compelling central mystery.
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