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12 Monkeys

Terry Gilliam's 1995 science fiction film starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt.

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12Monkeys - we are not always what we appear to be

  • Jan 13, 2002
  • by
Pros: Acting & directing

Cons: A bit confusing at times

The Bottom Line: Intriguing concept and I really don't think you ever 'get' all the plots involved

Just call me late to supper. Seldom do I catch a movie when released, and I had pretty much written this one off considering the reviews given. However, a recent bout with the flu and a Bruce Willis weekend on Showtime dropped this one in my lap. I'm not a big Willis fan, his shows all seem so predictable, kinda like Stallone or Jean-Claude.

Color me surprised on this twisted plot and convoluted characters in the guise of James Cole (Bruce Willis) and Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt [I'm not a Brad Pitt fan either, so imagine my quandary]) .

It takes a bit of concentration to follow this plot, mainly due, I believe, to the time travel sequences. Tying together the boy, James, then, to the man now, took me a minute or two, but the flashbacks and flash forwards added to the movie. I also enjoyed the various players showing up during all the different time sequences in James' life, giving it some continuity of sorts, albeit confusing.

As a well written and well directed character movie, you are given enough insight and background into each player to give them some flesh and meaning. Willis' character, James Cole, has the ability of a fantastic memory, so is given the capability to shoot forward in history and back in history to attempt to avoid a killer virus outbreak that destroys the world. Given the fact that no one believes his rambling, naturally, who would, he is often thrown into circumstances that become hazardous to his life.

Most importantly is his stint in the mental institution where he meets up with not only rich boy Jeffrey Goines, but also with his protector Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeline Stowe), who he had known in a previous time/life when he was both man and child. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's confusing but trust me here.

As he joins forces with Dr. Railly, who finally believes his tirades, they come across Goines once again, who they both believe is the cause of the viral outbreak. Turns out Goines was actually insane and may or may not have anything to do with the virus at all, I'll let that be your decision, I'm not giving it away.

And, just for your information, the title 12 Monkeys has absolutely nothing to do with monkeys at all, but 12 slightly confused people that join forces to fight the evil animal-experimenting forces. They just liked that title for their group, I guess.

What makes this movie so interesting is the use of the different time sequences and the overlapping occurrences. I wasn't really taken with the time chamber or its inhabitants, I found that a bit bizarre. In fact, for what it was supposed to be, it looked a little outdated, but who am I to say. I've never time traveled. That I know of. Of course, I realize this was supposed to be in a future where there has been a great deal of destruction.

Acting by Willis and Pitt was phenomenal. Pitt had me twitching in my seat with all his gyrations and ranting. Didn't doubt for one minute that he was insane, not for one. Willis gave a good character study of the mind bordering that fine line between lunacy and reality. I was reminded an awful lot of Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.

I was definitely not disappointed with this release, the plot, action and acting were all well executed. There was just enough intrigue and suspense to keep you guessing, and a good guy and bad guy to root for and against.

Academy Award nominations went to Brad Pitt (Best Supporting Actor) and Julie Weiss (Best Costume Design), but they did not win. Also stars Christopher Plummer, David Morse, Frank Gorshin and Irma St. Paule. Written by David & Janet Peoples, inspired by La Jette, which was written by Chris Marker. Directed by Terry Gilliam. Good job.


p.s. The Oracle was sleeping this morning so I don't have a Kevin Bacon number for Irma St. Paule. Maybe later


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More 12 Monkeys reviews
review by . May 02, 2011
"There is no right or wrong, only popular opinion."         Twelve Monkeys, five billion people are dead, but how is it caused by the Twelve Monkeys. A better question, who are the Twelve Monkeys? Long ago I attempted this movie, and I was left gobsmacked. Terry Gilliam had yet again created a truly bizarre movie, different from his other works, in fact different from all previous works. Upon my second viewing, yet again I remain undecided on this movie. I …
review by . July 29, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
12 Monkeys is not only my favorite time traveling movie, but one of my favorite movies in general. It has a solid, fun and smart story, solid acting and a great feel to it.      James Cole (Willis) is a prisoner in the future where everyone lives in some sort of underground steam punk bunker after a virus killed 5 billion people in 1996 driving humanity below. It's not made clear what kind of government there is left, if any, but Cole is confronted by a group of scientists …
Quick Tip by . August 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Awesome looking movie with cool art direction, story and characters. Bruce Willis must save the world from a killer virus. I need to see this again.
Quick Tip by . July 27, 2010
Best movie ever! I am always interested what the off camera activities of the characters of the film and learn new secrets about the film so many times watching it.
review by . December 23, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Teaser poster
From his days with Monty Python to his visionary epic Brazil, Terry Gilliam has never been an ordinary filmmaker. His unique sense of style and his trademark absurdist humor can be found in all of his films. In 1995, he cemented his reputation as one of the most unconventional directors in America with his brilliant science fiction film, 12 Monkeys. 12 Monkeys is an apocalyptic, romantic, time travel adventure inspired by the French film, La Jetée, which was written by Chris Marker. …
review by . March 06, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Despite the cheesy special effects and some unnecessarily silly scenes that greatly detract from the movie, 12 Monkeys is a very good science fiction movie.      Set in the year 2035, a plague has wiped out much of the human race and they are forced to live deep underground. Scientists of the era send criminals back in time, using imperfect time machine technology, to try to discover the origins of the virus so they can bring a sample back to the future to find a cure, and take …
review by . February 08, 2004
Pros: Something different for a change.     Cons: Aw, I don't like the end. =P     The Bottom Line: A lil old though it may be, it's a pretty good change from the stuff that's around these days.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. What to watch, what to watch. Hey look, Bruce Willis movies. 12 Monkeys huh? Ok, cool.      It actually wasn't until about midway through the movie …
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About this movie


12 Monkeys
is a 1995 science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée, and starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Plummer.

After Universal Studios acquired the rights to remake La Jetée as a full-length film, David and Janet Peoples were hired to write the script. Under Terry Gilliam's direction, Universal granted the filmmakers a $29.5 million budget, and filming lasted from February to May 1995. The film was shot mostly in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where the story was set.

The film was released to critical praise and grossed approximately $168 million worldwide. Brad Pitt was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and won a Golden Globe for his performance. The film also won and was nominated for various categories at the Saturn Awards.
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