Twelve          Monkeys




Terry Gilliam is a director whose style of filmmaking is very much his own. If you have never seen a Gilliam movie, may I suggest Dramamine before you watch. Very much a fan of odd angles and frenetic pace, this ex member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus makes most of his movies in another gear, and on some sort of parallel universe. He also at times, creates some unforgettable images in his films. Take for instance: the opening of Twelve Monkeys, which takes places in the near future after a virus has wiped out most of the human race, leaving the animals to roam free. The few survivors live below underground, for the air above will kill them.

Bruce Willis plays (James Cole), a convict who has kind of volunteered to venture to the surface decked out in some sort of quasi spacesuit to collect samples of bugs to help the rather strange scientists below who are studying the virus. The underground is run by a group that resembles some kind Orwellian freaks whose machines looks like several different century technologies blended together. This is a Gilliam trademark.

So, the opening of this movie has James Cole, climbing out of a manhole in a city covered in snow, and wild animals running around. With the faint sound of “Silent Night” playing, and the snow gently falling, Cole looks up inside a shopping mall with a high ceiling and sees birds scatter. This is just beautiful cinema.As it turns out, these freaks who run the underground, have discovered how to time travel,but they are a bit iffy on the year they send you to. Because Cole is such a good collector of specimens above ground, they decide to send him to the past to trace the source of the virus. If they can do this, maybe they can find a solution so the surface is safe again. They offer him a parole if he succeeds. Apparently there is a terrorist group called “The order of the Twelve Monkeys” who may have something to do with the release of the virus.

They intend to send him to 1996, but instead send him to 1990, where he ends up in a mental institution straight out of Midnight Express. The psychiatrist who interviews Cole, Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe),thinks she has seen James before but can't place him.In the hospital,Jeffrey Goines (an outstanding Brad Pitt),who helps James escape, speaks in riddles, and may be crucial in helping Cole find information about the virus. This really is an original and entertaining film that might be a bit confusing at first, but is actually a clever constructed script that throws out clues here and there, as to the mystery of the virus. Willis and Stowe are great in this film; I think this is one of Willis’s best roles. He is very sympathetic and you understand why Stowe’s character would be intrigued by him, given these shards of memories she has about Cole. Twelve Monkeys was one of the best films I saw in 1995, and you should  see this movie.

watch the trailer: