Friday, February 20, 2004

Movie Review: 12 Monkeys

United States, 1995
Running Time: 2:09
Rated: R (Violence, profanity, nudity)
Cast: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, David Morse

Director: Terry Gilliam
Producer: Charles Roven
Screenplay: David Peoples and Janet Peoples, inspired by the film La Jetee
Music: Paul Buckmaster
Studio: Universal Pictures

Inspired by the 1962 short film entitled, La Jetee (The Runway), 12 Monkeys is a well-constructed, intelligent feature with both a bright basis and an emotional-gratifying climax. 12 Monkeys blends elements of drama, action, science-fiction, dark comedy and love all together to create a puzzle with many grandiose components whose effects are idyllic. Some claim that this movie is a dizzying mess that is difficult to classify as a film; however, 12 Monkeys is a perplexing joyride that keeps you paying attention, working your brain, and sitting on the edge of your seat.

The year is 2035. The United States has fallen into a post-industrial depression and depletion stage. In 1997, five billion people died from a virus, and the 1% of the entire Earth’s population who survived, fled underground to avoid the plague. While the humans fled, the viral-immune animals seized the above-ground world. Now, the remaining scientists of the underground Earth continually send “volunteers” to the surface to collect observations, research, and any living organisms that could possibly lead to finding a cure for the malignant virus. The best observers are launched back into time to help lead them to the origin of the deadly virus, which will then, in turn, help them to preserve the nature of the present world.

Bruce Willis finally escapes his cliché John McClain character here by playing James Cole, one of the men who is chosen to be sent back in time to help save the world. The character of Cole becomes incapable of deciphering between his own sanity and madness, his own sense of reality and fantasy, and his own ability to distinguish what is the past and what is the present. His scary and loony character is sometimes also seen as being heartfelt, making for an excellent lead played by an excellent actor. Brad Pitt is also exceptional is his supporting role as the crazy man, Jeffrey Gomes. His lazy-eyed manic character, with a John Henson skunk spot and all, is well-played and was well-deserving of the 1995 Oscar nomination he received.

Director Terry Gilliam (who was previously involved with such feats as all of the Monty Python productions, Time Bandits, Brazil, and The Fisher King) becomes more of a “Hollywood” director with this film, being that it is one of his most widely-viewed and well-received features. It is hard not to exclaim, after viewing this film, that Gilliam is a cinematic genius whose thoughts, when put to screen, are impeccably astounding.

This highly recommended picture juggles all kinds of profound themes and includes all kinds of keeper quotes in a science fiction format that is guaranteed to please everyone. Overall, this film is immensely entertaining and well worth two hours and nine minutes of your time. The film’s flaws are trivial; the positives greatly outweigh any petty discrepancies. 12 Monkeys creates an overall notion that warrants both of my opposable thumbs to be raised. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004