Follows the journey of a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will nearly destroy the human race.
An intense film about time travel, this Sci-Fi entry was directed by Terry Gilliam, a member of the comedy troupe Monty Python. The film stars Bruce Willis as James Cole, a prisoner of the state in the year 2035 who can earn parole if he agrees to travel back in time and thwart a devastating plague. The virus has wiped out most of the Earth's population and the remainder live underground because the air is poisonous. Returning to the year 1990, six years before the start of the plague, Cole is soon imprisoned in a psychiatric facility because his warnings sound like mad ravings. There he meets a scientist named Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), the mad son of an eminent virologist (Christopher Plummer). Cole is returned by the authorities to the year 2035, and finally ends up at his intended destination in 1996. He kidnaps Dr. Railly in order to enlist her help in his quest. Cole discovers graffiti by an apparent animal rights group called the Army ...
In the 24-hour Hitchcock Theater, Kathryn and James are watching Vertigo (1958). She transforms herself with a blonde wig and James sees her emerge within a red light. This mirrors a scene from that movie. The same Bernard Herrmann score can be heard, and Kathryn wears the same coat that Kim Novak wears in the first part of Vertigo. See more »
When in the car in 1996 and Cole asks for more music, the switching from station to station is the sound of an analog radio dial (fade out of one station, fade in to the next), whereas the radio being used is a digital direct-tune type. This is likely intentional on the part of the filmmakers as Terry Gilliam frequently places "retro" technology alongside or inside the modern. 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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