In a disease ravaged future, subterranean dwellin’ prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis) is chosen to go back in time and find the source of the virus in a desperate plan to save the future…on a side note, he keeps having dreams of an airport shooting, but I’m sure that is unrelated and will not factor into the story at all. Anyway, our dude goes back a bit too far (to 1990 instead of 1996 to be precise). He is of course immediately considered a lunatic and incarcerated when he tells of his mission…but soon learns an organization with the catchy handle of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys has a role in the virus and that his fellow inmate, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) is involved with the whole affair in some part. Soon Cole is goin’ back and forth along the time stream like a yo-yo trying to put an end to that dastardly disease, but will he be up to the task of saving all of mankind (no pressure or anything)?
Full of dark, apocalyptic overtones, a realistic presentation to it’s fantastical elements, and some fantastic acting, especially from Willis and Pitt make 12 Monkeys one of Director Terry Gilliam’s strongest post Monty Python efforts. Speaking of Gilliam, this is also one of his less fantasy driven pieces (most likely as he was brought onto the project rather than developing it from scratch) and for once, I think that actually helps the story as things take on a more grounded, natural ambiance even among the time travel and makes the vents seem completely believable. That isn’t to say there isn’t any Gilliam trademarks as dreaming and regimented totalitarian agencies and structure all play a large part in the narrative.
As first rate as 12 Monkeys is on it’s own, Arrow Video have included some choice bonus material on the Blu-ray release as well. First up we have an info and anecdote packed commentary by Gilliam and Charles Rowen that details just what it took to bring the production to screen…and speaking of just that very thing; also included is a feature length documentary that is every bit as entertaining as 12 Monkeys itself and details the film’s production up close and personal. Also featured are an archival interview with Gilliam from 1996, an appreciation of the film by author Ian Christie, an extensive gallery of production art, behind-the-scenes photographs, and marketing materials, and the film’s theatrical trailer.
Many consider 12 Monkeys a classic of sci-fi cinema, and your’s cruelly is in no way in disagreement with that one; the film is poignant, extremely well made, and infinitely thought provoking…well worth your time in every respect.