Sunday, July 8, 2007

12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys; science-fiction, USA, 1995; D: Terry Gilliam, S: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, Jon Seda

A virus killed 99 % of the human race in the the mid 1990s. In 2030s, the surviving people are living under the surface while a group of scientists invented a time machine. They send James Cole, a convict, back to the 1990s in order to investigate the origin of the virus, thought to be liked to a group called "12 Monkeys". James ends in a mental institution, meeting a crazy patient, Jeffrey, whose father is a virologist. James gets send back to the future, and then back to the 1990s, where he kidnaps Dr. Kathryn Railly and sets out to go to Philadelphia to find Jeffrey. James soon finds out the "12 Monkeys" have nothing to do with the virus. Kathryn and James go to an airport, but there he finds the real perpetrator of the virus infection, Dr. Peters. As James tries to stop him, he is shot and killed, while James as a kid saw everything.

"12 Monkeys", a loose remake of the short Sci-Fi film "La Jetée", can best be described as a mix between "Back to the Future" and "28 Days Later": with his dark style, eccentric director Terry Gilliam created a Fellini-like, nightmarish vision of a cold post-apocalyptic future, often falling into pointlessness, pretentiousness and illogical elements - one can even debate he directed the film about 70 % as brilliancy and 30 % as pure delinquency - but with an excellent idea about time traveling. The story, written by David Webb Peoples, places the main protagonist James Cole (a very good Bruce Willis) in a confusing state where he doesn't know if he is really sent from the future or if he is just mentally ill, playing the trick even with the audience, but in the end deciding for the first option (the sequence where James inexplicably disappears from his sealed mental cell and the doctors can't explain it). Also, the story is full of circles, showing how the past can't be changed and that there are some things that are simply destined to happen, one way or the other. Although he appears practically in only 3 sequences during the whole film, Brad Pitt delivered a truly energetic performance as the mentally deranged Jeffrey (in one scene he is looking at the TV which shows footage of a rabbit during an animal testing, commenting how the "Easter Bunny" has a really hard time), for which he won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar. For one, the ending is pure genius: James saw his own death as a kid. Such a devastating finale that reaches almost the Tantalus's tragic fate, really stays in this flawed and spiritually empty, but fascinating, grotesque experimental film.