Twelve Monkeys

Studio: Arrow Video

Nov 02, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

In 1996, a virus spread across the globe which erased all but one percent of human lives on the planet. The survivors retreated beneath the surface of the Earth while above-ground animals again regained their dominance. As the decades go by, the survivors stumble upon a very imperfect method of time travel. Unable to stop the virus’ destructive path, they instead opt to send “volunteers” back to just before the pandemic outbreak in search of clues to its origin, the hope being that they can find a pure form of the virus in order to develop a vaccine.

Enter James Cole (Bruce Willis), a violent criminal with boyhood memories of life above ground, is unwillingly “volunteered” for one of these time travel recon missions. Despite their years of research, the doctors have few clues to go on: they know the disease originated somewhere between Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, and that a mysterious group known as the Army of the 12 Monkeys may be to blame. By accident, Cole is sent too far in the past, to 1990, where he’s locked away in a mental hospital with a lunatic by the name of Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) and cared for by an empathetic psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe). Upon return to his own time, however, it dawns on him that he may have unwittingly stumbled onto the disease’s secret genesis.

Directed by Terry Gilliam from a script by Blade Runner co-scribe David Peoples and Janet Peoples, Twelve Monkeys yielded a Best Supporting Actor nomination for an early-career Brad Pitt and a second straight hit for Gilliam following 1991’s The Fisher King. The famously beleaguered ex-Python took a tight budget and strict shooting schedule in exchange for final cut of his film, but the results would seem to point to those being perhaps the ideal conditions for Gilliam to work under. With Twelve Monkeys, Gilliam was forced to slightly temper the ambition and perfectionism that are occasionally his downfall; the final film does feel less Gilliamesque than box office underperformers like Brazil or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which are, consequently, often among the favorite films of the director’s fans.) It is, however, Gilliam’s most successful mainstream science fiction film, and does feature many of his visual trademarks. Nowhere else has he better straddled the line between executing his unique vision and pleasing mass audiences.

Arrow Video’s new Blu-ray looks (and sounds) great. Extras-wise, fans of Twelve Monkeys will likely be familiar with the disc’s two biggest inclusions, which are holdovers from numerous DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film to come before. Still, they’re very insightful: a full-length commentary from Gilliam and producer Charles Roven, and a feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary titled The Hamster Factor and Other Tales. (A comprehensive image gallery is also ported from the older discs.) New to Arrow’s edition is a Q&A with Gilliam about the film recorded during the late ‘90s, as well as a video appreciation by Gilliam historian Ian Christie. If you're a Twelve Monkeys fan, this is the best incarnation of the movie out there. 



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