What has happened has happened and cannot be reversed... right?
I am possibly gonna cop some flack for this, but in my eyes, '12 Monkeys' really is one of the best time travel movies made. I really haven't seen any other films that can compare to Terry Gilliam's take on such a novel concept. While this movie isn't an original idea (it is actually a full-length, moving remake of 'La Jette') Gilliam and co offer up something truly unique when it comes to making a psychologically dark science fiction that could, the more fantastical elements aside, actually happen. Humans are wonderful creatures, but at the same time, they can be the absolute worst. We are a diverse species with diverse beliefs, though there are some out there who are unwilling to accept this and resort to extreme actions to enfroce their own. In the case of '12 Monkeys', some yahoos released a deadly virus in the world resulting in mass human extinction, with survivors being forced to live underground as animals and vegetation (immune to the virus) reclaim the world again. Humanity has been attempting to find out about the virus by sending so-called 'volunteers' (also known as convicts) up to the surface to collect samples day by day. However, this changes when time travel is made possible, thus, 'volunteers' are sent back through time in hopes of preventing the apocalypse. The proces isn't easy and most of the time, quite fatal, as Cole (Bruce Willis) finds. He is catapulted back and forth through time, his mind barely able to sustain it's sanity, and that is where one of the crucial elements of the movie comes into play- sanity and insanity is relative and when human beings are exposed to extraordinary circumstances, all bets truly are off.
The hapless traveller
I think one of the main reasons why I love '12 Monkeys' is because it is a very human-driven story as opposed to simply relying on visual effects and fastastical situations to tell a science fiction tale. What would you or I do in such a situation that poor Cole is exposed to? How would we cope? What would happen if we could not? '12 Monkeys' poses these questions throughout the twisting narrative all the while remaining enthralling as what could be considered as a 'genre film'. Another reason why it's stuck with me is that it showed me how skilled an actor such as Bruce Willis can be when he is saddled with such material. Gilliam made a 'Bruce Willis Movie Cliche' list to ensure he got a down-to-earth performance out of Willis and it shows- no 'hero' poses, no mordant one-liners and no 'steely blue eyes' look and wonders of wonders, Willis was completely willing to follow these paramters and the movie benefits.
Other than Willis's wonderful performance, this must be said...
This guy ROCKED.
I want to make this clear- I never have been of those women who ever thought Brad Pitt was gorgeous, I don't know why- I can see why women would consider him attractive, but not me. But it was also his manic performance as Geoff Goines, leader of a terrorism cell known as The 12 Monkeys who may or may not be responsible for the end of the world, that convinced me the man can be a phenomenal actor. Pitt really lets go in this role, but despite all of his bombasticisms, he stays true to the type of personality his character has- he doesn't just think outside the box, he rips the box apart and turns it into insane origami. His performance is such a stark contrast from Willis's, but he still plays it for real. Pitt actually booked into a psych ward in preparation for this role and he drew upon everything he saw there and translated it on screen for us to see. That's committment, people.
Nuts and loving it
While this could very well be bias toward this movie, I never found anything particularly wrong with it. It was paced well, there really was never a dull moment and all of the actors were competant with the material. Madeline Stowe in particular, while her performance may not be as talked about as Willis's and Pitt's, acts as a balance. Her character counsels Cole, even when she is in doubt of his sanity, which makes it a small reprieve from seeing Cole suffer. I wouldn't call this relationship love, but it could have been if matters and mind sets were different. One of my favourite sequences between Stowe and Willis was when their characters were driving down a street at night, and a song Cole remembers comes on the radio. He wants nothing more than to lean out of the window and feel the night air as he listens to this song, as he knows this will be his only opportunity to experience this sensation.
I feel this is a tremendously important film for not just science fiction, but as a social statement. We must remember that we live in a temporary world with temporary lives, and there is only so much our human minds can comprehend. If we are struck by a devastating event, it changes us all profoundly. In the end, we must pay attention to not just the world but each other because what happens to one happens to all, it's just a matter of time, something we do not always have.