12 Monkeys (1995)

Should I see it?

12 Monkeys Movie Review

James Cole (Bruce Willis) lives in a future where humans have been forced to scratch a living out underground, driven there by a deadly virus. The powers that be send Cole back to 1996, the year the plague hit so he can gather evidence on its cause. They believe the virus was the responsibility of a group called the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Cole is accidentally sent back too far and winds up wasting away in an insane asylum. There he meets his doctor Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and fellow kooky inmate Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). Cole continues to time travel and interrupts the lives of Railly and Goines as he slowly closes in on the truth.

Not only is this Terry Gilliam's most accessible film but it is also his best. The biggest reason this is his best film is because he restrains his penchant for self indulgence. Like a speaker who loves the sound of their own voice, Gilliam clearly gets so wrapped up designing his films that he forgets to tell coherent stories.

This film is coherent and benefits from Gilliam's strengths. His unique visual style combined with his sense of the absurd. He slowly weaves a complicated time travel story that at first seems muddled and disjointed. The various strings of images and plot points seem to fly around wildly but are brilliantly tied together in the film's final moments. On first viewing, this ending is one of the most satisfying that I have ever seen.

The standout in this film is Brad Pitt who gleefully plays Goines as a stuttering, twitching sociopath obsessed with animal rights. Pitt clearly established many of his acting tricks from this role as you can see traces of Goines in many of the roles he's done since.

This is a great movie. It is layered and well plotted but not overly so. This makes it a smart, fun film that is a good pick if you're looking for something out of the ordinary.

Related Reviews:
Terry Gilliam movies
The Fisher King (1991)
The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Other Critic's Reviews:
The Daily Beaconline
Combustible Celluloid

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