Revisiting 12 Monkeys
By Hervé St-Louis
June 29, 2013 - 09:06
Studios: Universal Pictures, Atlas Entertainment, Classico
Writer(s): David Webb Peoples, Janet Peoples, Chris Marker
Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Jon Seda, Joseph Melito
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Produced by: Charles Roven, Lloyd Phillips
Running Time: 129 minutes
Release Date: December 27, 1995
Rating: R (Restricted)
Distributors: Universal Pictures
12 Monkeys is the story of time-travelling convict James Cole who is sent in the past several times to gather information on a deadly virus that has forced humanity to live underground. Mistaken for mental patient in the 1990s, Cole played by Bruce Willis, with the help of psychiatrist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) attempt to stop the villain that has created the virus. This film was released in 1995 and directed by Terry Gilliam.
Gilliam who rarely directs film he has not written accepted to work on 12 Monkeys based on its plot and its original inspiration a French short film called La Jetée which featured the same central scene of a man witnessing his own death through time travel. Unlike other science fiction movies, 12 Monkeys was low on visual and special effects and focused instead on the dynamics between the two main characters and the themes of insanity.
Looking at the various sets set in the future, I would argue that they did not age quite well and smelled like something concocted in the 1980s at times. That’s not to say the film was bad. It wasn’t at all, although it has long periods that could have been shorter and better edited. What I really liked was the focus on the mental instability and peeping inside of the mind of madness. Brad Pitt’s role as a fellow mental patient stole the show from Willis’ cardboard acting without emotions.
Recent movies that play in the same area like the 2012 version of Total Recall instead of building on the strong themes and material just indulge in too many effects and stupid car chases around the world. These movies seem grandiose, but are in effect quite empty and less memorable. In hindsight, 12 Monkeys’ story seems conventional for viewers today and not as ground-breaking, especially since the Matrix trilogy. But at the time, it was a confusing movie with many open-ended questions masquerading as a science fiction flick. You may want to revisit it again. It’s a good movie.
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