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A lone time traveler from the year 2035 must solve a riddle that may save his people...but it may also take him to the brink of madness. Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt star in this brilliant sci-fi masterpiece from Terry Gilliam, the acclaimed director of The Fisher King. After the world's population is devastated by a killer virus, survivors must live in dank underground communities. Cole (Willis) "volunteers" to travel into the past to obtain a pure virus sample, thereby helping scientists develop a cure. Along the way, he crosses paths with a beautiful psychiatrist (Stowe) and a one-card-short-of-a-full-deck mental patient (Pitt). But the race is on, as Cole searches for The Army of the 12 Monkeys, a radical group linked to the deadly disease. With unforgettable performances and imaginative special effects, 12 Monkeys is a modern-day classic laced with Gilliam's trademark wit and dazzling visual style.
Inspired by Chris Marker's acclaimed short film LaJetée (which is included on the DVD Short 2: Dreams), 12 Monkeys combines intricate, intelligent storytelling with the uniquely imaginative vision of director Terry Gilliam. The story opens in the wintry wasteland of the year 2035, where a virulent plague has forced humans to live in a squalid, oppressively regimented underground. Bruce Willis plays a societal outcast who is given the opportunity to erase his criminal record by "volunteering" to time-travel into the past to obtain a pure sample of the deadly virus that will help future scientists to develop a cure. But in bouncing from 1918 to the early and mid-1990s, he undergoes an ordeal that forces him to question his own perceptions of reality. Caught between the dangers of the past and the devastation of the future, he encounters a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) who is initially convinced he's insane, and a wacky mental patient (Brad Pitt in a twitchy Oscar-nominated role) with links to a radical group that may have unleashed the deadly virus. Equal parts mystery, tragedy, psychological thriller, and apocalyptic drama, 12 Monkeys ranks as one of the best science fiction films of the '90s, boosted by Gilliam's visual ingenuity and one of the finest performances of Willis's career. --Jeff ShannonSee all Editorial Reviews
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The story is fantastic and the visuals are top notch. Unfortunately this film doesn't benefit much in HD, the movie was shot soft, with lots of filters and with wide angle lenses that are never very sharp. That is Gilliam's style. Here, it goes even further, dingy, foggy and dream like and that is the intention.
For Time Travel fans who like their alternate time lines DARK.
What I like the most about this movie is that it takes a unique approach to the time-travel motif and mesmerizes you from the beginning. It makes you question what's real and what isn't and keeps you in suspense and guessing until the very end. Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt deliver riveting and irrational performances.
This movie truly is an intellectual treat.
The master used for the transfer could certainly be better, though the actual bluray transfer is good. I hope a restoration makes it even better some day.
I love Terry Gilliam, I truly do. But so much of his work suffers from too much creativity (Brazil, Baron Munchausen, etc.) that his brilliant vision often turns into clutter and noise. He needs a steadier hand to guide him at times, and we've found it with David People's marvelous screenplay.
12 Monkeys is Gilliam's most disciplined, moving and thought-provoking film precisely because we are able to relate to its ideas surrounding insanity, paranoia and doomsday.
Bruce Willis is a convict in a dystopian future where nearly all of mankind has been killed off by a super-virus unleashed in 1996. The survivors live underground like rats and the animals (immune to the virus) are the only creatures on the surface. He is recruited to go back in time to retrieve a sample virus so that the scientist plutocrats who rule his society can develop a vaccine.
OK, typical plot developments occur, right? "Bruce, back in the 1990s, is considered a crack-pot and a looney and he's locked up. He's got to get out and complete his mission and there's one person who can help: Dr. Kathryn Reilly, psychiatrist and do-gooder."
But wait, there's more. So much more, including Brad Pitt (in my favorite performance as the maniac who may be behind the virus); complex time travel that effectively distorts YOUR idea of what's real; man's corruption of the earth; and a vision of humanity's collective madness that only Gilliam could capture.
Because at the center is Bruce Willis as James Cole. A violent person hardened by life, but who can also listen to a song on the radio with the relish of a child. Madeleine Stowe is at her most luminous as Dr. Reilly, and the love that develops between them is neither unecessary or contrived. After all, love is their last grasp at what what it means to be real. Everything else is just a collection of artifacts.