12 Monkeys (1995)

Mayan Movie Meltdown Madness continues! This time, we have the Biological Apocalypse Event!

This movie is almost 20 years old, beyond this point lie spoilers. 

12 Monkeys stars Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and other people who I am sure were very popular at the time. I will refer to one of these people as “The Shrink” as that is her job, it is easier to spell than Psychiatrist, and I don’t remember the name of the actress.

The movie shows us a world where an imprisoned Bruce Willis is having flashbacks of a young boy seeing a man killed, while being clutched by a blonde woman. His flashbacks are interrupted as he wakes in a dystopian underground prison in a dystopian underground society. The surface world is only seen by volunteers, or rather volun-tolds, who scout for clues of the source of the viral outbreak that forced humanity underground. Willis is sent back in time to gather further clues, but is considered a dangerous loon and locked away. He interacts with a woman, The Shrink, who tries treating him for his “Cassandra Complex” – his warped insistence that he knows the future. While institutionalized he meets Brad Pitt, the psycho-political son of a Rich White Guy (TM). Turns out Bruce was sent back too far, and he makes his way to the correct year to learn about the outbreak, 1996. He reconne

cts with The Shrink, and by reconnect I mean kidnaps. He forces her to follow clues and she slowly realizes that some of his story is correct- specifically the existence of the Army of 12 Monkeys (Hey, thats the title of the movie!). Brad Pitt is leading them to do something major. After entertaining the delusion for a short while, the Shrink is locked in a trunk. She convinces Bruce Willis he is nuts, and Bruce vanishes Batman-Style from behind her back. With Bruce gone, The Shrink sees several clues fall into place and realizes that this is all true and the world is at danger. Meanwhile, Bruce convinces what he now believes to be his hallucinations to send him back once more. When Bruce gets back to the Shrink- they finally get on the same page to stop Brad Pitt’s Monkey Business. Well guess what- Brad Pitt is just a troll and released a bunch of animals- haha. No worries. So the now dis

guised Quasi loonies decide to skip the country. Unfortunately, Rich White Guy is in fact the source of the disease- but not through his son, but his creepy assistant Mr. Deadface. Deadface is trying to spread the disease all over the place and Bruce tries to shoot him at the airport. Well, he blows it and gets himself killed while the Shrinks clings to him. Of course, a young Bruce Willis looks on and if you hadn’t seen Looper this summer you were blown away.

Interesting and thought-provoking story, this little film. Tons of imagery, foreshadowing, visual clues, and cinematographic self references.  It came at a time when everyone was convinced that science might be pushing us too far. The idea that we could be the architects of our own destruction fairly well accepted. I personally cringe at the thought of being completely misunderstood and dismissed, so the theme of believing the “crazy people” struck a chord. Seeing it played out on screen, first with a time traveler and again with a respected scientist was difficult to watch, but perhaps therapeutic for my particular hangups.

One caveat, however. Brad Pitt got a lot of praise for portraying a nutter. It was a so-so performance, but frankly, playing crazy is overrated and over done. You can’t relate to them, you can’t explain their actions, and the only point in watching them is to see what they will do next. I don’t believe it is possible to connect with them. With some notable exceptions (The Dark Knight, Rainman, Girl Interrupted…) , I am not a fan of the art of being nuts.

Why You Should See It:

  • You like Mind Benders involving time travel.
  • You enjoy richly developed films.
  • You like a good mystery.
  • Quirky theme music is your thing.

Why You Should Skip It:

  • Crazy people is more of a trope than a triumph in your book.
  • You want a simple, straight forward sci-fi
    action film.

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