Twelve Monkeys (1995) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
567 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Gilliam's Masterpiece of Madness
Josh29 November 2000
Terry Gilliam's fantastic, twisted story of a virus destroying all but a handful of people across the Earth and forcing them to move underground and the man sent back in time to gather information about it is a fantastic, dizzying, and highly stylized film that boasts Bruce Willis' best performance ever.

What sets 12 Monkeys apart from most time-travel sci-fi movies is that Bruce Willis character actually deals with what the psychological effects of time-travel, that is, not knowing what reality is actual reality: the place that the time-traveler comes from or goes to. Also, the film recognizes that things that have past cannot be altered and that the prevention of a cataclysmic event, in this case the release of said virus, cannot be stopped or changed. As Willis asserts "It's already happened," while he's in a mental hospital, the major dilemma the film trudges into is not a trite, overdone plot to save the world; instead it's Willis' inner struggle to simply survive himself. It's a fresh, innovative concept, and it works beautifully thanks to a tautly written script by Peoples and Gilliam's unique brand of dementia.

Besides this, 12 Monkey's storytelling is totally non-linear and instead opts to distort and bend the way the story is told skillfully incorporating a bevy of different time sequences: flashbacks, dreams, memories, the present, the past, the future, and even a scene that is lifted out of Hitchcock's Vertigo. All serve to envelop the viewer into its disturbing cacophony of madness and futility.

Visually, Gilliam is a master of desolate umbrage and shadow rivalling Tim Burton in his strikingly despondent scenery and imagery. With cold, wide, and immersing cinematography, Gilliam plunges into the colorless surroundings and darkness of his characters. The scenes are often bathed in a strangely antiseptic, dead white and help serve as a contrast to the often veering-on-madness characters.

Performance-wise, Brad Pitt steals most scenes, filling them with a patented loony, off-the-wall performance that deservedly garnered him an Oscar nomination. As mentioned, Bruce Willis gives the best performance of his career, not reverting to his heroic cliches and cardboard hero and instead portraying Cole as a simple, poignant, tragic everyman. Equally good is Madeline Stowe as Willis' psychologist. She holds her own, injecting her character with both wild energy and strength as she collapses under the weight of what she comes to believe is a false 'religion.'

Gilliam's expert, overwhelming, and complex handling of what could have been a routine action/sci-fi film makes 12 Monkeys a compelling vision of a nightmarish, futuristic landscape. Its rich, well-thought out, intricate storyline along with bravura performances from the entire cast and its brooding, bleak cinematography make it a masterpiece of madness. Ranking in my top 10 of all time, 12 Monkeys is a darkly lavish spectacle of a film brimming with brilliance.

10 out of 10
526 out of 571 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Imaginative, clever, engaging and very enjoyable – one of the best sci-fi's I've seen
bob the moo13 February 2005
In the future humans exist underground, the surface having become uninhabitable due to the release of a virus years before in 1996. The ruling classes are scientists and large sections of the population are held as prisoners in tiny cells; prisoners who "volunteer" to help work out what happened back in 1996 that killed off 99% of the population. Requiring information about the visit, James Cole is sent back to 1996 to gather what information he can. However, sent to 1990 by accident, Cole finds himself in a mental hospital where he meets From the very start this film marks itself out as being very much a Terry Gilliam product and those who hate his work will probably dislike this film for the same reason. However, pleasing people like that is not my concern and 12 Monkeys is actually one of Gilliam's most accessible films as it sets his imaginative style within a narrative that is satisfyingly complex and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The story is not perfect though, the connection to the start is nice but the ultimate twist behind the virus just seems to have been thrown in to keep the film tidy; a minor complaint though because even then the main thrust of the story (Cole) keeps it together. The twisting plot plays with both Cole's and our sense of reality and it is genuinely gripping from start to finish Gilliam's direction is superb, whether it be the realistic world of the 1990's filmed with clever angles and shots or the wonderfully twisted world of the future, it is all excellent and was such a pleasant find in my local cinema at the time.

The film benefits from great turns from the cast. Willis was having a bit of a career resurrection in the mid-90's when several films showed us that he could actually act – for me, 12 Monkeys was one of them. Willis is superb as he spins from madness to sanity and back again; he underplays all the way and is so much better than the wise-cracking everyman that he is better known for. Pitt is just as good but in a different way. Getting an Oscar nomination that he deserved, Pitt risks overdoing it but pushes his crazy performance as far as he can without being indulgent – I'm not saying he is perfect but I would could this as one of his best performances to date. Stowe is very much in the shadow of these two but she holds her own well. Morse, Seda, Meloni and Plummer are all good in minor roles but really the film belongs to the lead three – Willis in particular and Pitt in a great supporting role.

Overall this is a great sci-fi; the story is great and is only helped by Gilliam's imaginative direction and awareness of the fantastic. Meanwhile the cast are very strong, with the famous leads giving some of their best performances to date. Downbeat, imaginative, engaging and one of the more accessible of Gilliam's films, it stands out as one of the best American sci-fi's of the past few decades.
110 out of 122 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
So you're telling me those people in the mental institution are... crazy?
Kristine15 September 2007
Just kidding, I rented 12 Monkeys the other day because I am a huge Bruce Willis fan and I heard some things about the film. Some good and some bad, but it was one of those films you had to pay attention to every second, so I was a bit worried. Just because I felt like for a minute if this was going to be one of those films that I had to watch several times to get. But I watched it last night and I was really impressed, this movie had everything in it: action, drama, sci-fi, history, dark humor, and even a little romance. The actors all did a terrific job, I give a lot of credit to Bruce, during his scene in the car with his psychiatrist, he really got to me. But Brad Pitt, I'm just amazed with how much of a great job he did. He didn't over do his character, who was crazy, and just made it work and was extremely believable. The story was just scary, but very good and a wake up call.

James Cole is a man in the future where a virus broke out in the past and killed 5 billion people and only 1% of the population survived including him. Animals are now ruling the ground above while the humans are down below, but scientists send James to the past of 1990(really meaning to send him to '96), to find out about information of the virus. James gets put into a mental institution meeting his new psychiatrist, Dr. Kathryn Raily and another mental patient, Jeffrey Goines. He tells them the future, of course no one believes him, he goes back to the future. But the scientists send him back to the correct year to where the doctor is kidnapped by James, but he tells her more, and believes him. Now they are set on trying to prevent the virus from ever happening.

12 Monkeys was an incredible film. Like I said the story was so scary just because it's not at all hard to believe that we are not far from that happening. But the whole movie was just great, the cast, the sets, just the whole picture was a great one. It had a Terminator type of feel to it where we might loose something precious one day, ourselves if we don't listen to others. What is right and what is wrong? Who knows? But I would highly recommend 12 Monkeys, it's a great movie that if you give it the proper chance, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

194 out of 226 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Trying to Save the Future, Which Is the Past
nycritic29 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Stories about the possibility of a post-apocalyptic future have been around for ages, since the very creation of science-fiction as a genre per se. The fact that today's society is responsible for what may become of the future in the near tomorrow, and that our own abuses and refusals to see what is right before out eyes are at the very center of all of these stories, whether they are good or bad.

Terry Gilliam of course is a natural for this kind of film. He gives the movie a decadent feel throughout, showing a society run ragged by its own excesses and bringing forth the a sense of imminent tragedy despite having moments of comedy. His world, the world in which TWELVE MONKEYS transpires, is a place where the mad run wild, where cities are collapsing in filth and neglect, where everything reeks of foreboding despite the luminosity of the opening sequence, where madness looms at every corner. This is a very dark movie, but his very best, most linear (despite the plot twists which hold up under examination), and one which gets better with repeated viewings.

A tragic event in which a deadly virus was unleashed onto humanity in 1996 and thus led to the extermination of Life On The Planet As We Have Known It leads to scientists of the future to try and make amends to change humanity's fate on the Earth by employing renegade citizens -- the scum of the Earth -- as guinea pigs to go back in time, among them one James Cole (underplayed to great effect by Bruce Willis). Cole could be any person. We don't know anything about him, but in a way, that doesn't matter since he is little more than one of many expendable volunteers and hints of his character sneak in later as he gets closer to fulfilling his mission. What we do know is that he is a man who dreams, and his dreams may have been reality: he may have already been at the scene of the Event of 1996.

It's this constant sense of deja vu that keeps popping up throughout the movie. When taken to a mental ward by mistake in 1990 he meets Jeffrey Goines (spastically played by Brad Pitt, Oscar-nominated here) who frantically spews forth talk about doom and destruction, and later Cole believes he has seen Goines in his recurring dream as a man pushing a boy aside while escaping... what? He doesn't know. Later he meets a psychologist, Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), and one of her first reactions to him is that he's insane, and that she's seen him before. This becomes a running notion throughout her participation in this story from passive/resistant to active and even slightly crazy believer that Something Terrible is coming This Way, especially when she meets him six years later: she has seen Cole before. At the same time, Cole continues talking about a dream he keeps having in which she also plays a part as a blonde woman running down the aisle, screaming for help, after shots have rung out and a particular red-headed man in a ponytail (Jeffrey Goines?) has apparently escaped, not before pushing the little boy who is an innocent bystander. The questions arise: have these events happened? Are they going to happen? Who is really a part of this, or better yet -- is everyone, down to the smallest player, a part of a Greater Plot? Or is this all some trick in the fabric of time in which Time in itself is one huge conveyor belt showing repetitions of fragments of events that slide by over and over again?

These questions are formulated in a masterful sequence which includes key scenes of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece VERTIGO in which Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton mourns her own brief existence ("You took no notice," she says, as Cole and Railly watch from their seats in the movie theatre they are hiding in). Snippets of dialog from VERTIGO form a foil to the dialog between Railly and Cole and later, when Cole awakens from having apparently dozed off in the theatre and goes looking for Railly, he comes face-to-face with her in disguise (looking almost exactly like Eva Maria Saint from NORTH BY NORTHWEST) as the swelling Bernard Herrmann score plays the emergence of Judy Barton, dressed as Madeleine Elster. It's a fascinating sequence, more so because of the most improbable occurrence of the names of the actors in both films: Madeleine Stowe plays Kathryn Railly who dons a blond wig and grey trench-coat and calls herself "Judy Simmons" while helping an "insane" man named James Cole; James Stewart plays a detective who tries to help "insane" Madeleine Elster who will later re-appear not once, but twice, first as brunette Judy Barton, and later, as Madeleine. Action and re-enaction, play and re-play.
66 out of 75 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Superior sci-fi
Red-Barracuda20 April 2012
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.
14 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Mind-Bending and Heart-Breaking
Terry Gilliam's stunning feature-length adaptation of Chris Marker's short film LA JETEE is full of mind-bending surprises, yet still touches your heart thanks to the superb cast. Gilliam's flair for the phantasmagorical works with the script by David and Janet Peoples to play with your head as much as it does with poor James Cole (Willis at his most Steve McQueen-like -- better than McQueen, even!), a time-traveling convict from the future who literally doesn't know whether he's coming or going as a team of scientists keeps sending him back to the wrong eras while trying to prevent a 1995 plague that's deadly to humans but harmless to animals. Willis, the justifiably Oscar-nominated Brad Pitt, and Madeline Stowe as a well-meaning psychiatrist give some of the best performances of their careers. Even Paul Buckmaster's tango-style score is haunting. This one's a don't-miss!
118 out of 139 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
these monkeys will go to heaven...
dbdumonteil13 June 2003
"Twelve monkeys"'s got all the elements to become Terry Gilliam's masterpiece. An outstanding screenplay, a sustained rhythm, clever sometimes ironic dialogs. Moreover, he had a good nose about the cast. "Twelve monkeys" is also the first movie where Bruce Willis stands back from the kind of character he used to play in his previous movies. Here, a jaded and hopeless character which you could nickname a prisoner took over from a fearless and invincible hero (as it was the case in "Die hard"). No matter how he tries, he's a prisoner of the time. The movie contains a very thrilling end too. It's got a real dramatic power. But this terrific movie is also a reflection about man, the dangers he dreads (notably, the ones that could cause the end of the world and here, these are virus that can create illnesses). No matter how long it will take, "twelve monkeys" will be estimated at its true value: one of the masterpieces made in the nineties.
218 out of 271 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
This is amazing stuff
Philip Van der Veken15 August 2005
Normally I try to avoid Sci-Fi movies as much as I can, because this just isn't a genre that really appeals to me. Light sabers, UFO's, aliens, time traveling... most of the time it's nothing for me. However, there is one movie in the genre that I'll always give a place in my list of top movies and that's this "Twelve Monkeys" I remember to be completely blown away by it the first time, but even now, after having it seen several times already, I'm still one of its biggest fans. Every time I see it, this movie seems to get better and better.

Somewhere in the distant future all people live underground because an unknown and lethal virus wiped out five billion people in 1996, leaving only 1 percent of the population alive. James Cole is one of them. He's a prisoner who lives in a small cage and who is chosen as a 'volunteer' to be sent back to in time to gather information about the origin of the epidemic. They believe it was spread by a mysterious group called 'The Twelve Monkeys' and need the virus before it mutated, so that scientists can study it. But their time traveling machine doesn't work perfectly yet and he is accidentally sent to 1990, where he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist, and Jeffrey Goines, the insane son of a famous scientist and virus expert...

What I like so much about this movie is the fact that it is never clear whether all what you are seeing is real or not. Is this just an illusion, created in the mind of a mentally ill man or is it real? Does he really come from the future and can he really travel through time? Was the population really wiped out by a virus, released by the army of The Twelve Monkeys? Those are all questions that will leave you wondering from the beginning until the end. If the makers of this movie had chosen to make it all more obvious, I'm sure that I would never have liked it as much as I did now. It's just that mysteriousness that keeps me interested time after time. But that's not the only good thing about this movie of course. The acting is amazing too. Normally I'm not too much a fan of Bruce Willis, but what he did in this movie was just astonishing. Together with Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt he should have won several awards for it, because together with the amazing story, they made this movie work so incredibly well.

Even after several viewings, I'm still a huge fan of this movie. Except for this movie, I have only seen one other Terry Gilliam movie and that's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas", which wasn't bad, but didn't really convince me either. However, it's this movie that really makes me look forward to his other work. I give it a 9/10, maybe even a 9.5/10.
80 out of 98 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Terry Gilliam: Visionary - 12 Monkeys: Vision
ToldYaSo24 April 1999
I had the privilege of seeing this film at a preview screening years ago, and outside the theater I was confronted by a camera crew from a local TV station looking for comments on the film. At the time, the only words that escaped my mouth were "Awesome. Just awesome." I like to think I can articulate myself a little better than that, but at the time I was somewhat incapable of doing so.

The story is intriguing and thought provoking, and the acting is first rate from all the principals. This film was the first one that Terry Gilliam directed that he didn't have a hand in the writing credit for. Back with Universal after his long, arduous battle with them over "Brazil", Terry had achieved what he wanted most; the "final cut". Terry is a master craftsman, and each shot is like a beautifully conceived painting that has been constructed carefully with determination and conviction. It is only justice that such an individual should be unfettered in his attempts to convey a concept. Unfortunately, limitations still exist in such arrangements.

The Universal Collector's Edition DVD of this film is simply amazing, although most of the bonus features aren't listed on the box. It contains among other things, a director/producer audio commentary and an informative and extremely interesting 90 minute documentary on the making of the film called "The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys". It tells of some of the creative pitfalls in filmmaking, including a test of mettle when preview screenings tested poorly, striking the team with feelings of self-doubt and despair. Fortunately, for all of us, they decided to change very little about the film and released it to an enormous success.
172 out of 230 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A brilliant movie. One of the very best science fiction movies of the 1990s, and one or Terry Gilliam's greatest achievements.
Infofreak24 January 2003
I grew up on Python and have followed Terry Gilliam's subsequent directorial career for more years than I care to remember. Half his output leaves me cold, the other half dazzle me beyond belief. 'Brazil' is his movie that I would rate the highest, but I've come to think that I have unfairly underrated 'Twelve Monkeys'. I have always enjoyed it, but I've only come to realize just how good a movie it really is. Sometimes I think it is even better than 'Brazil'. It's a close pick. Unlike 'Brazil' Gilliam didn't come up with the script. He basically was initially involved as a director for hire. Thankfully the script itself (by David and Janet Peoples) is first rate. On top of that Gilliam manages to stamp his own style and approach on to the material without sliding into complete self-indulgence as he sometimes does. The budget of this movie wasn't anywhere near as large as you would imagine from the impressive results on screen. It looks superb. Gilliam coaxes first rate performances out of Bruce Willis (quite a surprise) and Brad Pitt (not such a surprise, see also 'Johnny Suede' and 'Kalifornia'). Madeline Stowe is also very good, as is Christopher Plummer, and in a small but important role, David Morse. It's difficult to fault this movie. It is a joy to watch, and improves with each viewing. I also highly recommend Chris Marker's 'La Jetee', the short experimental film which inspired 'Twelve Monkeys'. It is also brilliant.
107 out of 142 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Full of Gillian-isms, Empty of Willis-isms - in a good way...
j30bell23 November 2006
There is a story (possibly apocryphal) about an exchange between Bruce Willis and Terry Gilliam at the start of Twelve Monkeys. Gilliam (allegedly) produced a long list (think about the aircraft one from the Fifth Element) and handed it to Butch Bruce. It was entitled "Things Bruce Willis Does When He Acts". It ended with a simple message saying: "please don't do any of the above in my movie".

There is a fact about this movie (definitely true). Gilliam didn't have a hand in the writing.

I would contend that these two factors played a huge role in creating the extraordinary (if not commercial) success that is The Twelve Monkeys.

Visually, the Twelve Monkeys is all that we have rightly come to expect from a Gilliam film. It is also full of Gilliamesque surrealism and general (but magnificent) strangeness. Gilliam delights in wrong-footing his audience. Although the ending of the Twelve Monkeys will surprise no one who has sat through the first real, Gilliam borrows heavily from Kafka in the clockwork, bureaucratic relentless movement of the characters towards their fate. It is this journey, and the character developments they undergo, which unsettles.

I love Gilliam films (Brazil, in particular). But they do all tend to suffer from the same weakness. He seems to have so many ideas, and so much enthusiasm, that his films almost invariably end up as a tangled mess (Brazil, in particular). I still maintain that Brazil is Gilliam's tour de force, but there's no denying that The Twelve Monkey's is a breath of fresh air in the tight-plotting department. Style, substance and form seem to merge in a way not usually seen from the ex-Python.

Whatever the truth of the rumour above, Gilliam also manages to get a first rate (and very atypical) performance out of the bald one. Bruce is excellent in this film, as are all the cast, particularly a suitably bonkers - and very scary - Brad Pitt.

It's been over a decade since this film was released. When I watched it again, I realised that it hadn't really aged. I had changed, of course. And this made me look at the film with fresh eyes. This seems to me to be a fitting tribute to a film that, partly at least, is about reflections in mirrors, altered perspectives and the absurd one-way journey through time that we all make. A first rate film. 8/10.
100 out of 133 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A fine sci-fi thriller
rbverhoef30 May 2004
Warning: Spoilers
With 'Twelve Monkeys' you need to pay attention, but if you do that you probably find a lot to appreciate. I know I did. The story is interesting and deals with time traveling. A virus killed a lot of people back in 1997 and a guy named Cole (Bruce Willis) is send back to 1990 and 1996 to find a cure for the virus. In 1990 he is arrested and put in a mental hospital. There he meets Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), who probably has something to do with the virus. He also meets psychiatrist Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) who doesn't believe him in 1990. When Cole disappears from the mental hospital while he is chained and locked in a room and re-appears in 1996 Kathryn starts believing Cole's stories.

The movie constantly plays with time. Cole makes a phone call and leaves a message in 1996, it is picked up in the future and "they" send someone. For Cole that someone appears only seconds after the phone call. Things like this happen throughout the movie and therefore you must keep attention. You could ask some questions but since you can't have an answer yourself it is better to agree with the movie.

'Twelve Monkeys' works as sci-fi, with some great images and a dark atmosphere, and it works as a thriller. You are never certain of what will happen next and that helps the movie. May be it has some flaws in the story, but since it is about a fictional thing like time traveling, you should accept what the movie tells us and just try to enjoy. That was the easy part for me.
41 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Time and destiny in a true 90's masterpiece
Carlos Eduardo Café18 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A linear travel within a non-linear structure. It's a fact that time, in 12 monkeys, flows in this come-and-go between present, future and past. However, the movie's linearity can't be avoided: it's the very work of the projector, the unfolding of the narrative.

What we can see underlying the temporal theme is a reflection on the inevitability of our actions. The world of this Terry Gilliam film is a world with little space for free-will.

Right from the beginning we are informed about a schizophrenic's prophecy, according to which a plague would rule the Earth in 1997, forcing the few survivors to live underground - the only place not affected by the virus.

Cole's (Willis) mission is clear: return to the mid 90's to investigate whatever and whoever is related to the release of the virus. There's no way to change the past: all that can be done is gather information that can help the scientists of the present (that, for us viewers, is the future) find the cure. Not to change what happened (the past is inevitable), but make the present better.

In his "returns" in time, Cole gradually comes near a striking dilemma: his life in the past is better than his life in the present.

The latter is dark and dehumanizing, controlled by totalitarian scientists that elect "volunteers" (this word is incisively ironic) to embark on the journeys to the past.

The scientists have not yet reached the highest level of achievements in time travel, and Cole ends up on wrong dates - this will, later in the plot, work as a proof of his sanity for the psychiatrist Kathryn (Stowe).

We can see, through the evolution of the story, that linearity and non-linearity interlace in a circular temporality.

There is more than one moment in which the scene that is the first and ends up being almost the last - and certainly the climactic - appears. It modifies itself, according to the evocation of Cole's memories, that come up in his dreams.

In an airport, a man is shot dead while running, armed, toward someone else. A blonde woman runs after the murdered one.

This is the scene that connects the past (in which Cole is a kid that visits the airport with his parents), the present (the time of the narrative) and the future (adult Cole) Throughout the narrative, Cole has the feeling of having already lived the reality he is experiencing now. His prophetic dreams are the proof that it is impossible to escape or avoid what happened. The agents that shoot him stop him from killing the mad scientist, doctor Peters (Morse), that is the responsible for the dissemination of the disease.

What was can't be changed. And, in Cole's case, what was is what will be. Eternally.

A film not quite well understood for many. To me, nothing less than a masterpiece.

Other good movies with similar theme: The Back to the future trilogy (that has another angle regarding the "mad scientist" character, and although it shares the atmosphere of decay - particularly in the second film -, it is way more optimistic than Gilliam's work, that is an odd Hollywood picture).

In another register, there is "Wild strawberries", one of Bergman's masterpieces, that involves a striking and enlightening travel to the past through dreams and reminiscences.

I've never watched "La Jetée", but only because I can't find it.
16 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
A very gripping and compelling film
WalterSoprano2 August 2014
Throughout the whole film I kept asking myself the question as of what was going to happen and once I figured it out as usual my mind is blown. And on top of that Brad Pitt gives the best performance I've ever seen him done taking on the role of an absolute nut case.

The story seems complex and hard to follow to most but in reality as long as you pay attention to the film you should have no trouble. This film for me was really easy to get submerged into the film wanting me to know what happens next which is always a good thing in a film and of course I could not have gotten submerged without this marvelously clever story in the film.

A second and major thing I enjoyed was Brad Pitts amazing acting in the film, he does an amazing job as the fast talking nut case Jefferey It was always a bonus seeing him in his role throughout the film.

This is for sure one of my more favorite time travel films and film with a twist, its a tad different but really easy to enjoy.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Twelve Monkeys — Ready for a slow crude take on a fatal pandemic?
Avid Climber7 May 2013
Twelve Monkeys is the kind of movie that gets much better with time. With each subsequent viewing, you start appreciating something new, understanding the story a little bit more, and linking new plots elements. I'm saying this because the settings and scenes are rather crude and unpleasant to assimilate, even though the final product is incredible.

The good. Tight logical story. Engrossing scenario that gets better with time. Excellent acting. Interesting treatment of a fairly common theme. Great details. Nice conception of the future.

The actors. Bruce Willis plays the dislocated and slightly unhinged hero to perfection. Great acting. Madeleine Stowe is just right as the unwilling but open-minded participant. Brad Pitt's mad interpretation is pure genius and an obvious precursor of his role in Fight Club (review still to come).

The bad. The whole flick will not please everybody for its gruesome take, the slow development, and the logical conclusion, which I must admit is as it should be. It is morally disappointing and a slightly simple considering the circumvolutions of the story itself.

The ugly. Nothing ugly there, but the rawness of it all.

The result. Watch it. Let a year go by. Watch it again.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Very Good Science Fiction!
g-bodyl14 March 2013
Twelve Monkeys is a very good science fiction film in part because it has a visionary director at the helm who doesn't believe in following the rules of cinema which of course is Terry Gilliam and also it has a very good portrayal of time travel which is kind of different they way it's used in this film. Despite some good, clever action scenes, this is not a straight-up action film. Instead, it's more of a thriller that likes to challenge viewers and that it does successfully. It helps that there are a few mind-blowing twists and turns thrown in.

This film is about a jailed guy, James Cole who is sent back in time to prevent a virus that wipe out the majority of the human population by 1997. He meets a psychologist and together, they try to find the 12 Monkeys cult which is believed to be the ones that let the virus out.

The acting is really good. Bruce Willis and especially Brad Pitt are on top of their games in the movie. Brad Pitt really gives it his all by playing a mental person with a weird imagination. Bruce Willis is really good as the guy who just wants to do his job and leave. Madeleine Stowe also does a good job even though I thought she was confusing at times.

Overall, this is a very good film both as a narrative and a technical display. Both worlds, past and future, are depicted as grim and dirty. It must have influenced 2006's Children of Men, because that is what the bleak landscape reminded me of. This thriller reminds me of the old Hitchcock films and the early Shymalan films with the kind of plot twists the movie has. This is a really sci-fi film and it holds up well. I rate this film 9/10.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Simply Great
righthere-tan17 May 2012
Great story keeps you glued to your seat. Representation is extraordinary. There are so many layers in this film and they have been coordinated masterfully so that their is not a single boring moment in this film. Bruce and Brad are fantastic as always. Put all this together it's a feast for a film buff. I never imagined Brad Pitt could pull a role like this one. I know he is a great actor and all that but his portrayal of that insane Jeffrey is a real powerhouse performance. The costumes could have been a little better though. All the scientist from the future world looks a bit of old fashioned. But the overall performance makes for that. Bruce Willis has always impressed me with his acting and this one is no different. He should get 10 out of 10 for this performance.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Intelligent & Creative Science Fiction Movie: Gilliam's Best Yet!
Eumenides_020 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Terry Gilliam's and David Peoples' teamed up to create one of the most intelligent and creative science fiction movies of the '90's. People's proved a screenplay with bizarre twists and fantastic ideas about the nature of time — I especially love the idea one can't change the past; it's a nice counterpoint to so many time-travelling movies which say otherwise — biological holocausts and the thin line between sanity and madness. Gilliam visualized his ideas with unique quirkiness, perfection and originality.

The story itself is engaging: one man, James Cole (played by Bruce Willis in a heart-warming performance) travels several decades to the past to retrieve information about a virus that's wiped out mankind and left only a few survivors alive living underground: with the information he'll collect, scientists hope to find a cure so everyone in the future can return to the surface. But because their time-travelling technology isn't perfect, he ends up being sent towards different other pasts and complicating things. And from that a brilliant science fiction thriller with shades of film noir ensues as the multiple pieces of a huge jigsaw start fitting together to form a bizarre narrative involving animal right activists, end of the millennium paranoia, biological weapons, the perception of reality, and the definition of sanity. With such a complex movie, it was easy for Gilliam and Peoples to create a mess, but instead Twelve Monkeys is a thought-provoking narrative which will please those who like to be challenged and have patience to appreciate some crazy ideas.

I watched this movie once around 10 years ago. It marked me a lot: I remember still thinking about many days after-wards; for my young mind this seemed quite mind-blowing and it was one of the first movies to make me appreciate cinema as something serious and important. I've re-watched this movie a few days ago on DVD and it's better than I remembered it. Brad Pitt still steals all the scenes he's in, playing Jeffrey Goines — almost a prelude to his Tyler Durden character in Fight Club — a rich kid with some anarchist/non-conformist ideas who's also crazy and, according to Cole, perhaps responsible for the virus. The scenes between Jeffrey and Cole in the madhouse are the best in the movie, Pitt's eyes, voice and quirky mannerisms convince you he's really a crazy guy locked in a warped logic only he understands. Pitt's Oscar nomination was well deserved! Surprising was also Bruce Willis' performance: his I didn't remember very well, but it's beautiful and full of sensibility; he plays a man who spent almost all his life underground, and when he comes to the past you'll share his childish fascination with something as simple as breathing the fresh air of the morning or watching the sun go up. Cole is a rather ambiguous character, Peoples' tried to imbue some darkness in him, and he does other disturbing things to other people and to himself: the scene where he removes his own teeth reveals how far his dementia has gone unchecked. Ironically Cole didn't start as a crazy character, but when he starts warning everyone about the end of the world, he's considered mad and convinced it's all in his mind, until he arrives at a point when he can't distinguish past from future, reality from fiction. Willis spends a lot of time looking confused and insecure, and it works perfectly. One of the fun twists in the narrative is when Cole's shrink, Dr. Kathryn Railly, finds undeniable proof he's really from the future and now has to convince him again of his mission to save the world. The screenplay is full with weird twists like this and it keeps the movie in a fast pace. Their relationship is also well-handed, although perhaps a bit compressed for time's sake. But I enjoyed watching Cole and Railly falling in love and trying to escape the authority of the future to live a peaceful life in the past. But then things end in a tragic/bittersweet climax at an airport, wrapping all the pieces together, which will blow many minds away.

There are two great endings in this movie, a twist in the sense of Se7en or Fight Club, and a more intimate ending where Railly is crouching next to Cole who's just been shot and looking around for a younger James Cole who's witnessing his future self die; the two share a brief look, and she smiles at him. The twist is brilliant, but I prefer this ending for emotional impact. Madeleine Stowe is very good playing Dr. Railly, she drew many different emotions from me in her performance. The movie is filled with a sense of fatalism with the idea the past can't be changed: this movie shows that in a terrifying way. It reminds me of Chinatown in that sense, the way Jake Gittes messes everything up the more he tries to help. Railly's character shares that fatalism, the more she tries to help Cole — first dealing with his 'madness' then helping him in his mission — the more they're sucked into tragedy.

The twist ends with a hopeful note, though, with the feeling Cole's mission hasn't been in vain. Twelve Monkeys is a great movie to watch if one wants to be entertained; it's not supposed to be art, although it's more artists than many artistic movies. It's an unpretentious movie where all elements, from music to editing to costume design, etc., came together beautifully to produce a modern cinema masterpiece.
14 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Deliciously intelligent and apocalyptic sci-fi thriller...
Varun B.12 November 2008
I have a certain amount of respect for film-makers who venture to create a time-travel movie, simply because of the risk and complexity involved; it is no secret that many of these films are flops due in part to the uncertainties of the science, and the confusion they cause many viewers as the events unfold on-screen. As such, it is difficult to convey the paradox(es) established in these stories in a single Motion Picture as opposed to say, a novel. That being said, TWELVE MONKEYS works because it manages to overcome these flaws (for the most part) and provide viewers with a fresh, intelligent, and logical movie-going experience that is bound to stay with them for a while. My initial impression of TWELVE MONKEYS was that it appeared to be a combination of DONNIE DARKO and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, with a hint of the deep-lying anti-societal messages (and the Brad Pitt) contained in FIGHT CLUB. I loved these movies, and needless to say, I loved TWELVE MONKEYS.

The storyline is a very good one, spanning as many as four different time zones in order to tell the story. This is simply a wonderful science-fiction movie, with an underlying dark, brooding psychological thriller aspect, reminiscent of course, of DONNIE DARKO (though the latter was released six years after the former; it's just that I SAW DONNIE DARKO first).

The direction by MONTY PYTHON's Terry Gilliam is superb, as are the cinematography and set design, with one of the opening shots of Philadelphia's City Hall overrun by animals setting the dark mood for the rest of the film. The acting by Bruce Willis and Madeleine Stowe is sufficient, but Brad Pitt was the stand-out for me, though his portrayal was admittedly over-the-top. It's just that every time the movie shifted from his character, there was an appreciable drop in energy. I guess even the Academy thought likewise, enough so that they saw it fit to nominate him for Best Supporting Actor.

TWELVE MONKEYS is a unique, intelligent, logical, and edgy Motion Picture that will challenge viewers and keep them involved throughout. The main character in the movie doesn't set about to change time (as is the case in most of these sci-fi time-travel movies) thereby creating another paradox; instead he sets about to study the events of the past in an effort to better the future. The screenwriters, David and Janet Peoples, set the movie in such a way that the viewer gets to decide what happens/happened, and as such TWELVE MONKEYS has sparked numerous intellectual debates, and will continue to do so for some time.

9/10. 3.5. stars (out of 4). Will enter my Top 150 at #123. Highly recommended.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Amazes every time.
dead4754824 January 2008
Probably one of the most complex stories ever crafted on film, Twelve Monkeys is also one of the most engaging. It compelled me from the moment it started to the second the credits started rolling. I've seen it many times and each time I see some small symbolisms that I didn't notice before, but I don't think I'll ever be able to grasp every single symbol that Gilliam put into this brilliant film. I'm honestly blown away by how ingenious the story is every time I see it. It's surely a science-fiction but it's almost like a thriller in the many twists and turns that the plot takes and every time I see it, I'm still amazed. The complexity and detail that Peoples and Gilliam put into this film is breathtaking. Truly one of the marvels of cinematic history. Of course I also have to mention Brad Pitt's absurdly charismatic performance which is among the best I've ever seen. Bruce Willis is also quite good.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Multiple viewings required
camandem-123 November 2006
This film remains one of my all time favourite's, and every time I see it I find something new that adds to the meaning of the story. I was surprised that Terry Gilliam, the man responsible for all of Monty Pythons crazy animations, directed the film, which was brilliantly written. It is a masterpiece that requires serious concentration and more than one viewing to make sense of it all. Brad Pitt's character is brilliantly acted and shows his ability as an actor in a role far from the Hollywood hunk style roles he is used to. The fact that time shifts without warning back and forward throughout the film makes events sometimes unexpected, but I prefer this type of film to the simple A to B type predictable films that Hollywood pumps out. I could watch Twelve Monkeys over and over without ever getting bored of it and highly recommend it to others.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
different but still intriguing
osnelgro6 February 2006
twelve monkeys is very different and but still very intriguing. The director has carefully thought of the surroundings and delicately chosen the personality of the actors. The story is different yet it's with twists and turns to have your eyes glued to the screen and with flashbacks, dreams, memories, the present, the past and more. The writer has performed a brilliant yet odd story in many different ways. twelve monkeys is very different to all the other big Hollywood film, it is a lot more clever and mystifies, it's something that must be watched with such delicacy and you must listen in to every word.

An unknown lethal virus has wiped out 99% of the populations in 1996, the 1% of the population is hanging on just by a thread, they manage to live to the year 2035, but must live underground. Eventually a convict volunteers to go back to the year 1996 to study how the killer virus occurred and to see if it could be stopped, it was apparent that it began from a mysterious army of twelve monkeys. It seems that everything will go well when the convict is mistakenly sent back to the year 1990, because of the dilemma the convict not knowing that it's the year 1990 and not the year 1996 is arrested and put in to a mental institution. In the mental institution he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist and Jeffrey Goins, the insane son of a scientist and virus expert.

The story is different yet it's with twists and turns to have your eyes glued to the screen and with flashbacks, dreams, memories, the present, the past and more.

Now thinking of the performances Brad Pitt is the takes the cake acting as a complete insane loony which were brilliant that should have earned him an Oscar. Bruce Willis also has an outstanding shy performance (completely to die hard, it shows as that he can act many different ways).

twelve monkeys is a very well thought of film that is completely different to the average action/Sci-Fi routine. It gives a depressing vision of the dreadful future, it also has brilliant performances from all of the actors in it. The picture the the director has given us is brilliant that gives us a real look, it is a brilliant masterpiece with a bizarre story line.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Inspired Insanity
Chandler8124 October 2002
12 Monkeys is a rare treat that diverts from the traditional Hollywood fare one might expect from the film, being directed by Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) and starring big-name Hollywood stars Willis and Pitt. However, rather than tell a 'time travel' story that deals with consequence and effect, 12 Monkeys instead tells an ambiguous tale of a central character walking a fine line between reality and insanity. The viewer can easily make a conscious decision while watching the film to buy into the time-travel story and Cole's plight, or they can interpret the film as the delusional visions of a clinically insane man. Gilliam's fantastic work offers evidence to support both interpretations, and the film can be enjoyed many times as the viewer picks up the many clues to determine their own interpretation of the events.

The acting is fantastic; Willis plays Cole with both alarming savagery and arresting sincerity. Stowe is as talented as she is hauntingly beautiful, and her role as the non-believer gradually accepting an unbelievable reality becomes increasingly compelling, as we see her own grip on reality crumble as Cole's does. Pitt is outstanding; his delivery of complicated machine-gun dialogue is both funny and disturbing, and although his character takes a back seat for a large portion of the film, he nonetheless greatly enhances the film with his presence.

12 Monkeys isn't a film that has broad appeal. Its imagery is largely very gritty and dirty - a stark contrast to the early scenes that are exceptionally stale - its story ambiguous, and there are plenty of simply bizarre scenes and characters. Still, it is a film that will reward the patient viewer with a clever and moving vision of a tortured soul and his heartbreaking struggle.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Didier (Didier-Becu)13 April 2004
The big problem is where to begin as this movie needs your attention the forthcoming two hours and you better not miss some minutes for getting a coke as there is a danger you can't follow. But good there is also a pause-button. Bruce Willis must travel into a timemachine to find out some antivirus for a virus that made animals rule over the world in 1996. Thanks to some mistakes he first ends up in 1990, then in the First World War and how messed up it all might look like, Terry Gilliam comes up with what must be one of the most intelligent scripts ever. This ex-Monty Phyton man knows exactly how genius SF-stories has to be told like and his choice of cast couldn't have been any better, there is the lunatic Brad Pitt (his performance in the asylum is memorable) and a superb Bruce Willis who proves he is more than some Schwarzenegger-wanna be. It's a movie you can watch over and over again as the script is so weird and complicated (and yet you can follow) that every view gives you other surprises. One of my big favourites.
121 out of 199 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
Give it a chance
rebecca-ry26 March 2012
'Twelve Monkeys' is a film which has a certain audience. It's a shame Terry Gilliam's films don't have as big a fan-base as other types of film and director but his fans are loyal.

The film starts off with Bruce Willis' flashback and him waking up in this strange prison-like place which automatically frightens you, the first half hour of the film is like this. One particular part is when Willis is walking through the abandoned shopping centre, it's a very atmospheric film.

The plot is very interesting, it can become quite confusing at some points but, as with a lot of Gilliam's films, it all ties together at the end. The camera-work in this film works really well and provides a lot of the atmosphere and tension in the film's plot.

The acting in this film is pretty good. The two main strengths in this film are of course Willis and Brad Pitt. Bruce Willis is an actors who has been type-cast unfortunately but this film broke the mould. He does not do any typical Willis-like actions and although he is the film's protagonist, he doesn't seem that way at all in this, he portrays a muddled, odd person who eventually tries to save the day. Brad Pitt is astonishing, it's the best I have ever seen him perform. It shows how great he really is as an actor and he's not just a pretty face.

Overall, I would recommend this film if you have seen a Gilliam film before and enjoyed it. If you have never liked any of his films you will probably not like this one. If you've never seen any then at least give this film a chance, it deserves a lot more credit than it received.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful?
Report this | Copied to clipboardCopy link
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews