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Sep 12, 2010

30 dAyS oF cRAzY: 12 Monkeys

Following one of my all-time favorites with another, Dave of the appropriately-titled Dave's Movie Reviews is here to analyze Terry Gilliam's 1996 sci-fi epic, 12 Monkeys. Willis, Pitt, Stowe, and all of Gilliam's madness made for an excellent recipe.

Stay tuned throughout September for nuttiness an
d zaniness of all varieties - click here for the full lineup, and click here for prior entries (which won't do you much good today, what with this being the first - madness!).

With a track record like Terry Gilliam's it is no surprise to find 12 Monkeys on this list of crazy movies. Long before a psycho Brad Pitt graces the screen you know this one is loco. Bruce Willis, who can be delirious in his own right, plays James Cole, a man from the future. I don't recall the exact date James Cole is actually living in, but it is something like 2026. He is enslaved by a company which is trying to figure out the origin of a deadly virus which wiped out 5 billion people and forced the survivors to live underground. They have figured out a way to send people back in time, but for some reason the time they send people to has not yet been perfected. James Cole finds himself in a 1990 mental institute with the psychotic Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). Terry Gilliam is seemingly trying to coax the viewer into a similar state of insanity with the constant time flipping and mayhem. Is all of this in James's head, is he really traveling through time, or is something else really going on here?

Backing Terry Gilliam's demented film is of course the lead Bruce Willis, but there is also Brad Pitt. Willis can be nutty to a point, but his character is not really the total loon that Jeffrey Goines is. Brad plays a perfect crazy; I don't recall an earlier performance by him that was this off the charts schizo and thankfully he has provided a wide range of great acting since. His part is really key to adding to the feeling that, as the viewer, you too are loosing your mind. We can blame most of that on Terry though since his idea of how time travel would work is so unhinged. Then again, it probably has more to do with David and Janet Peoples or the film for which this is based, La Jetee. It is almost as if Madeleine Stowe's role as Kathryn Railly in the film is mainly to help the audience keep their own sanity. Ironically she is a psychiatrist. James Cole seems more unsophisticated than insane, but then again he does think that he is from the future. Who can we really believe here?

12 Monkeys is a movie which I loved from the first time I watched it many years ago and even after the 5th or 6th viewing I find it to be quite fresh and entertaining. It is something which cannot be said about many films these days, but Terry Gilliam has created a winner here. I couldn't even remember how everything tied together which is a wonderful thing to experience with a movie sitting in your own collection. This is not like The Sixth Sense or The Village where once you have seen the movie you will never forget the twist and never really have a reason to watch it again (sorry M. Night, but can you really blame me for bashing after I paid to see The Last Airbender). No, 12 Monkeys is actually quite the opposite and worth the purchase. I have enjoyed watching it many times now and still like it.

If you are looking for a movie to mess with your head and give you some reason to think then this is a sound choice. You get good directing, good acting, and a healthy dose of bizarre time travel; what more could you really want?

Tomorrow: Jess returns to talk about some crazy people. As in the ones in the flick Crazy People.

7 people have chosen wisely: on "30 dAyS oF cRAzY: 12 Monkeys"

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Bonjour! Fletch,
Once again, I own this film and haven't watched it yet...(I know, I know, with "yet" being the operative
Wow! after reading this review this film sounds really interesting too!
I can't wait to watch it...What have I been waiting for...2026?!?
DeeDee ;-D

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Alex said...

What a coincidence, just yesterday I watched La Jetee for the first time. I never knew 12 Monkeys was inspired by another film, so it was an interesting watch! I love 12 Monkeys but it's been way too long since I've seen it.

Fitz said...


Was the fact that the kid at the beginning of the film was Bruce Willis supposed to be a twist? That seemed fairly clearly conveyed.

Reel Whore said...

Easily my favorite Terry Gilliam film, and not just because Bruce is the star.

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Dave said...

Fitz -

I think the kid thing is known from the first scene if not a little later when it is actually stated, but you might notice there is a little bit of confusion instilled by Gilliam by simply showing different people involved in that same scene as it is presented multiple times. The twist is how it all ties together, but doesn't really tie together at all. I was trying to make a point about replay value so maybe twist is not the most appropriate word here.

By the way, I realize now that he is from 2035; clearly stated on the DVD case. Imagine that.