Here’s a thought: Have you ever wanted to see Brad Pitt’s ass in the same movie as Bruce Willis’s ass? Trick question, you shouldn’t have to suffer through that. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brucey baby, but that right there’s some cinematic material I could have gone my entire life without seeing. Tell you what, in light of these monkeyshines (ha ha ha), let’s move on and look at what exactly 12 Monkeys is about.
The bigger picture: Earth’s surface is tainted by a virus that wiped out 99% of the human population while leaving all other species unharmed. Prisoners held for dire crimes are used as “volunteers” for surface recon, being forced to gear up in hazmat and attempt to collect residual samples of the virus. The science team in control of these operations also appears to have crafted a time machine that can drop people off in the past, then instantly pull them back into the present.
James Cole (Bruce Willis) gets the full runaround, as he successfully returns from a surface expedition, and is then deemed capable of searching for information regarding the virus in the past. Due to the unstable nature of the time machine, Cole touches down in 1990 and is sent to an insane asylum after raving about the global plague. It is here that he meets Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), a psychiatrist who remembers him for some reason or another. Though she thinks Cole is insane, some part of her believes him.
While he’s stuck in the institution, Cole meets a- well, he meets Brad Pitt playing a batshit insane son of a world-famous virologist. This Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) sounds like a drooling, crazed version of Tyler Durden, and I’m not playing around. When he starts ranting about consumerism and modern brainwashing, I had a moment where I just wondered, “Damn, what movie is this? Is this Fight Club?” Maybe 12 Monkeys is how he got the role. I digress.
Several major things happen between that point and the end of the movie. One: Cole and Railly discover that Goine is the head of the underground group called The Army of 12 Monkeys. Kind of like space monkeys in Fight Club. Two: Brucie falls for the girl and starts to think that he is insane. Three: The girl realizes that he isn’t insane, and convinces him to continue his mission. Four: They discover that the 12 Monkey Army isn’t responsible for the virus; all they’ll do is release a bunch of animals into New York. The person responsible for the near extinction of the human race is actually one of Goine Senior’s close assistants.
You don’t get to know about that, though. It’s spoiler stuff. What I will tell you is that there’s an obscure and annoying flashback that directly related to the movie’s conclusion that Brucie constantly experiences in his dreams. That in itself is a spoiler, but only if you view the movie.
In all likelihood, I don’t think you will. Even though I have a love for Bruce Willis and all his movies, I wouldn’t call this flick one of his better works. You can’t connect to the characters, the plot is a standard “I’m not crazy!” routine, and despite the would-be intensity of everything… it gets kind of boring. In short, it’s a good movie if you’re in the mood for funky old movies with Bruce Willis in them.
James Berardinelli of ReelViews gives 12 Monkeys 4.5 stars out of 5, which I believe is just crossing the line of generous. I’ll stand by the fact that the plot was well thought out and culturally relevant at the time. It even managed to address the paradoxical nature of time travel without befuddling it like Terminator did. Check out his review here: http://www.reelviews.net/movies/t/twelve_mon.html