Release Date
January 5, 1996
Terry Gillam
David Peoples
Janet Peoples
Based On Film By
Chris Marker
Distributed By
Universal Pictures
$29.5 million
Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller
Rated R For Violence and Language
129 minutes

12 Monkeys

After Monty Python and the Holy Grail, yet before Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Terry Gilliam directed the science fiction feature, 12 Monkeys, starring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Set in the apocalyptic future in the wake of a virus that forces the population of the world to move underground, Bruce Willis’ character, James Cole, is sent into the past to find out information about the virus.

Cole winds up in a mental institution on his first visit, where he meets animal activist/extremist, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). Pitt delivers some of the most memorable moments while in the mental institution, with his crazy-person hair cut and dialogue like “You dumbasses. I’m a mental patient. I’m *supposed* to act out!”.

Bruce Willis is the perfect actor for the role of Cole, with the look to fit the small action portions of the film while remaining completely internalized for the remainder of his role, a skill that Willis has honed throughout his career. Playing well off of supporting character, Pitt, (to which he was nominated for an academy award) the pair basically sell this film by itself. Add in Christopher Plummer and David Morse, and the cast turns out quite ingenius.

Along the lines of a grungy futuristic thriller like Blade Runner, where even the viewer feels like taking a shower following the conclusion of the film, 12 Monkeys delivers great and grimy set pieces, along with a fairly unique plot, containing some truly well-placed twists and revelations. Gilliam is an erratic director with a distinct style, borrowing from directors like Stanley Kubrick and the angle choices of Dr. Strangelove, as well as Ridley Scott and his baby, Blade Runner. However, it would have been more interesting to see a take on 12 Monkeys done by a different director, one more inept to handle a science fiction piece such as this.


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