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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.95%
Average: 9.46%
Pretty Bad: 4.73%
Total Crap: 3.38%

8 reviews, 100 user ratings

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12 Monkeys
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Charles Tatum

"Monkey See, Monkey Do"
5 stars

Never having been a huge Gilliam fan, I avoided this film like the plague (sorry) when it first came out. Maybe only now I was meant to enjoy one of the best science fiction films of all time.

James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a convict in the future. Mankind has been driven underground in 1997 by a virus released by the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and Cole is "volunteered" to go back in time and find out just what happened. The problem is, time travel is not perfect, and Cole finds himself in 1990 instead.

He is institutionalized and meets Kathryn (Madeleine Stowe), a psychiatrist he has seen before in a recurring dream. He also meets Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), a tic filled man who is crazy enough to believe Cole's stories about the future. Kathryn wants to help Cole, but he vanishes into the future again. The future scientists interrogate him, then accidentally send him to World War I before getting it right and having him come back to 1996. Things have changed drastically from 1990. Jeffrey is out of the mental ward, he was telling the truth when he said his dad was an important man, a bacterial scientist (Christopher Plummer). Cole finds Kathryn and kidnaps her, still looking for the 12 Monkeys clues that will lead him to the deadly virus' origin. He will not like the answers.

It seems Jeffrey was listening too intently to Cole in the asylum, and is carrying out his plan to destroy the world with a virus. Kathryn does not believe Cole, just as Cole decides he likes the pre-viral world and begins to convince himself he is insane so he can stay. He disappears again, then reappears in a nice juxtaposition where Kathryn believe the virus story, but Cole convinces himself he made it up. The two then try to stop Jeffrey, and the murder of five billion people.

Bruce Willis plays James Cole so well, I wish he had received more praise. He has many great scenes, but my favorite is when Cole is riding in the back seat of Kathryn's car, breathing the fresh air and listening to the music on the radio. The joy on Willis' face is so sincere, I smiled. Madeleine Stowe also gets to cut loose here, totally believable as a psychiatrist. She is horrified at Cole's behavior, but her attraction to him works too. Brad Pitt is very un-pretty boy, his Jeffrey seems like all nervousness on the surface, but there is an edge underneath that is a bit unsettling.

David and Janet Peoples wrote the script from the film "La Jetee," and the screenplay ought to be studied in universities around the country as a model for superior construction. The movie never dulled, using Cole's recurring dreams and his interrogations in the future to fill in blanks. It is great, and the script is the one thing I usually find wrong with a film. Gilliam's direction is not aloof, irresponsible, or as boring as I have found it in other films. He finds a great balance, letting his actors perform without showing off with his camera. "Restrained" might be a word to describe his direction, although it is so full of imagery, that may be all wrong. The art direction and set decoration are astounding.

"12 Monkeys" is not "Outbreak," it is wonderful. I came to care for these characters, and no one involved takes a wrong step anywhere. In the age of George Lucas' new empty "Star Wars" special effects extravaganzas, here is science fiction with a brain, and sci-fi/horror/fantasy geeks like me have reason to rejoice.

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originally posted: 10/11/03 03:48:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival For more in the 2006 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/06/17 FireWithFire Grow up, terry, you're demented, unreasonable, paranoid, and stuck in the '60s, 1 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell bleak & mind bending 4 stars
1/27/14 Nick Very average movie. Doesn't innovate in any way and there are many time travell flaws. 3 stars
9/19/13 Annie G Can be watched over and over - it's a classic! 5 stars
9/29/12 bob uninvolving 2 stars
7/23/09 Steven M Lol the worst bruce willis film! load of shit!! crap film!! Boring!! 1 stars
8/01/08 Quigley An expertly executed virus thriller with great direction from Gilliam and great acting 5 stars
3/05/08 ladavies Well, unfortunately I thought about it too hard, and hated it. 2 stars
2/05/08 kam Who knew Bruce could act? I'm an official fan now! 5 stars
9/03/07 Double M Interesting, thought-provoking, CONFUSING and a briliiant ending. Gilliams's masterpiece. 5 stars
6/28/07 Ez Waste of my life. i agree id rather walk into a fart at seArs. 1 stars
6/15/07 Steve Newman Great film - wish there more sci fi films like this!! 4 stars
5/04/07 malakogavlis The best film ever behind ''requiem for a dream" 5 stars
4/21/07 fools♫gold Took me a try and a half (a rare thing) to become in awe of it. 5 stars
2/06/07 David Pollastrini saw it but have no memory so it must have sucked 2 stars
1/11/07 Jake Pretty interesting plot with good characters 4 stars
1/09/07 Drew Galletti Brad and Bruce at their best 5 stars
8/05/06 Stanley Thai An over rated movie with a clever ending. Nothing special but still a good movie. 3 stars
12/19/05 Bree It is crazy! 5 stars
10/16/05 Moctezuma A highly entertaining sci-fi flick. Plus, Pitt's performance is flawless. 5 stars
9/02/05 ES Can't run around recommending it, its over the top and has way too much craziness 3 stars
8/08/05 Del IMO, The best Sci-Fi Flick Ever! 5 stars
3/13/05 Ronin One of the best SF movies ever. And it doesn't have spaceships and laser guns! 5 stars
2/14/05 M A Smith Just my kind of movie 5 stars
9/24/04 Al Guy Great movie that requires focus to enjoy. 4 stars
6/22/04 John better than expected remake of La Jetee 4 stars
4/20/04 ALI HBOUS a decent deal 4 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Creepy 5 stars
1/03/04 A F Best movie ever 5 stars
11/14/03 Gogo All parts fit together. This movie gets even better everytime I'm watching this. Intense! 5 stars
10/17/03 Josh Standlee You have to see it to believe it! 5 stars
10/11/03 Jack Sommersby A near-masterpiece. Imaginative, challenging, w/ an A+ perf by Willis. 5 stars
10/07/03 tatum One of the best science fiction flicks of all time 5 stars
10/01/03 yui the story bring me a great sad feeling, Good 5 stars
7/24/03 Max This film and Pulp Fiction showed us Bruce Willis could actually act. Who knew? 5 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald great acting, great direction, fascinating story, something to think about - I loved it! 5 stars
5/24/03 Ryan F. Very trippy. Great performance by willis. Brad Pitt was fuckin awesome!!!! 4 stars
5/11/03 Geo78665 In the top five, of the best films of the 1990s. 5 stars
2/13/03 Cartzca Pity about Willis. Still good enough for me 5 stars
2/11/03 Ubu the Ripper Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. AWESOME. 5 stars
1/23/03 Pinkline Jones It might help if Bruce could Act! 2 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby One of 1995' best. A staggering cinematic achievement! 5 stars
12/22/02 Pigwidgeon TG even got a good performance out of Bruce. And Philly was awesome. 5 stars
9/29/02 Fuze44 It's the end of the world. 5 stars
9/29/02 Morally Sound One of Gilliam's best films. 5 stars
8/08/02 Jack Thompson hell yes 5 stars
8/07/02 Jon Shouldn't a plot have a beginning, a middle and an end? 2 stars
8/05/02 Del Only people who don't like to think would hate this movie 5 stars
7/04/02 KMG I'd rather walk into a fart at Sears than watch 1 millisecond of this again! 1 stars
5/26/02 erick gilliam strikes again 5 stars
2/16/02 Bertha Venation The world will not appreciate Terry for awhile, inexplicably 5 stars
1/27/02 Andrew Carden Highly Overrated, but Still A Very Interesting and Engaging 4 stars
1/10/02 daniboy it's not that hard. a masterpiece 5 stars
12/01/01 Scottish Kilt Decent film, but the end fucked me, a bit over the top. 4 stars
10/30/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Weird. Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, and Terry Gilliam doing a movie together? That's creative. 3 stars
9/06/01 spaceworm Among so many pluses: Willis gives finger to those who write off his acting talent. 5 stars
7/26/01 dog great movie 5 stars
7/03/01 Obi Wan Loved Pitt in it!! Very good film, good dialogue not all that Hollywood "eyecandy" 4 stars
6/26/01 Geebo Very interesting. About the ending, I am still clueless though. But very interesting. 5 stars
5/02/01 BrainPan Weird, plus Madeline Stowe is one of the most beautiful women on earth now or in the future 5 stars
3/28/01 Monster W. Kung Very good, very sad sci-fi ALMOST masterpiece. 4 stars
2/16/01 Del R Time travel could (almost) make a man go crazy or think he is- AWESOME FILM 5 stars
2/16/01 Jake what trash. 1 stars
6/24/00 Naushad Khanji Willis is as usual terrific.Plot drags.Weak ending. 3 stars
6/24/00 Aaron White Star Wars? Pshaw. Trek? Away with these annoyances. 12 Monkeys is real SF cinema. 5 stars
6/04/00 perverted pixie It's directed by Terry Gilliam and set in the future- It has to be brutal! 5 stars
5/25/00 Elvisfan Brad was great & so was the story; Bruce was less successful, ditto Mad Stowe 5 stars
5/24/00 julie great movie 5 stars
2/23/00 Neil Austin Top film, Pythons can still rule. Pitt was cool too. 5 stars
2/14/00 mark great movie ,terrible ending. 4 stars
10/26/99 Karahde Khan In the 1990s they still make great Sci-Fi films. They're not many, but they do exist. 5 stars
10/25/99 jillian george art director / director 2 stars
10/17/99 Shelagh Excellent!! I loved it. Such an atmosphere ! 5 stars
7/24/99 Hagbard Celine You need to watch this two or three times to appreciate it. Excellent film! 5 stars
5/08/99 davebo I *heart* Terry Gilliam, just a great movie :) 5 stars
4/26/99 Michael Grimm could have been great, Willis made it average 3 stars
4/25/99 JDC Best crafted scifi in a long time. All the leads are great, even Willis. Well thought out. 5 stars
4/21/99 Robert Williams Vivid and thought provoking 4 stars
2/23/99 Jeff Terry Gilliam is genius--this movie is Fantastic--See it. 5 stars
2/20/99 Piz Well intended mess, won't hold a restless viewer, sci fi fans will enjoy. 3 stars
2/18/99 Daria It's GREAT to see Brad acting instead of his hairdo! Good movie... 4 stars
12/31/98 Todd The music alone made this movie 5 stars
12/29/98 Schizofrenic Now that's showbiz! 5 stars
12/09/98 Science fiction flicks doesn't get any better than this. GREAT MOVIE! 5 stars
12/08/98 Shadow Raider It isn't pure shit like Lost In Space and ID4, it's 100% authentic film. Period! 5 stars
11/27/98 BBReBozo The closest Bruce Willis ever got to acting. 5 stars
11/26/98 Mr.Pink Willis and Pitt are terriffic! T. Gilliam's best film!! 5 stars
11/25/98 Fred Pretty good once you realize it's not as deep as it seems to be. 4 stars
11/12/98 Jules I don't know why, but I love fatalistic shit like this... GREAT story! 5 stars
11/06/98 David Torpey Killer movie worth DVDing that has a plot! 5 stars
10/18/98 Kwyjibo Scifi films DO get better and this was no BladeRunner. Willis=pain. 3 stars
10/05/98 Negative Creep Sci Fi Films dont get any better than this. 5 stars
9/29/98 Johny Gilliam is crazy, gotta love him 4 stars
9/23/98 Patti Brad, Brad, Brad...he makes any movie good. 5 stars
9/16/98 Chuck-D the only time I've gone to a mainstream film in a firstrun theater and everyone stayed... 5 stars
9/12/98 kanatcha im too lazy for this... 5 stars
9/01/98 MikeF I liked this a lot. 4 stars
8/26/98 Pete Cool flick. Pitt is amazing. Gilliam is pure genius. 4 stars
8/23/98 Superfly Brad Pitt is amazing in this. Check it out if you like strange movie concepts. 4 stars
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  29-Dec-1995 (R)
  DVD: 10-May-2005

  19-Apr-1996 (15)

  14-Mar-1996 (M)

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