REVIEWED
3/2/03

STORY



LOOK

Twelve Monkeys (Collector's Edition)
Director: Terry Gilliam
Year: 1995
TRT: 2:10


This is a pretty decent sci-fi story told mostly in the "present" tense. James Cole (Bruce Willis) is technically from the future, one where society must live underground due to a viral infection that has wiped out 99% of the human race. Those that are left lead a somewhat stinted life, trying to find a way to leave their imprisonment underground. Cole has a violent record, and is therefor a prisoner even more so. But he is "volunteered" to collect samples on the surface, and is used as a guinea pig to be sent back into the past to try and get samples of the unmutated virus. It is only here that he finds a strange kind of freedom, both in breathing the air of the surface world and in finding a love that has haunted him his entire life.

This is one of those movies that are executed very well, and has an intriguing plot, but you are left wondering at the end about why it was a bit awkward. There are two main things going on here, and they don't quite mesh. There is the futuristic portion, and the area of the love interest (played well by Madeleine Stowe). It works well enough, but there's an odd motivation factor that doesn't quite apply to her character. But it still is a pretty interesting mystery of sorts, and is definitely Gilliam-like in nature for the futuristic Brazil-like society. I think it would have been interesting to explore this aspect more, but as it stands, most of the story does take place in the "present" time. Willis does an excellent job as an experiment subjected to the rigors of time travel, and dealing with the mental stress that it puts on him. There's also some great scenes involving Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), who is a mental patient in the hospital that Cole is committed to.

Great Scenes: Jeffrey's take on the "real" world when Cole first meets him in the psychiatric ward.

DVD Notes: The Collector's Edition by Universal contains an insightful commentary by Gilliam and Producer Charles Roven, very extensive Production Notes and bios for the majors. But what is really great is a 90 minute documentary called The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys that includes the history of the production through behind-the-scene footage, interviews, and television clips. It goes over some of Gilliam's history with his prior films (including the troubles with Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen). Very creative documentary that includes a very candid look at Gilliam's reactions as the film is made, screened, and released to the theaters. There's a great scene where, after the initial screening (which went poorly), Gilliam sits down and draws up a little illustration of how he feels (which is, well, pretty poor). This is a top-notch documentary that shows the struggles of a production through the eyes of the director. At the end of it there is also a collection of archived production stills, as well.