IMDb 250 – Twelve Monkeys

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, and Bruce Willis’ rear end

Quick Synopsis

Venture into the future as an imprisoned James Cole (Bruce Willis) is volunteered for a special mission by a group of goofily dressed scientists.  We come to find out he and the rest of the world lives in the underground, as a deadly virus has wiped out 5 billion people and only 1% of the people now survive on the earth.  Cole is then sent back in time to try and ascertain the virus’ origins and obtain a sample in its pure form so the scientists can study it and find a cure.   

When Cole is sent back, at first he inexplicably ends up in 1990, six years before the virus is unleashed, and is tossed in a mental institution, where he meets compassionate psychiatrist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and the eccentric and quite loony Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt).  After escaping the hospital, James manages to be sent to the correct time period and beings his quest to locate the source of the outbreak.  He again crosses paths with Dr. Railly and they work together to find Goines, who is connected the mysterious eco-activist group, The Army of the Twelve Monkeys, which is believed to be the source of the virus and the end of the world.  Through a series of unexpected events, this story takes many twists and turns that ends completely different than you expect. 

Quick Take

Seriously, Bruce Willis’ posterior deserves full credit in this film.  As much as I enjoyed this movie, I can’t help but think that Willis made a bet with himself that he could reach a full (moon?) saturation point by showing off his butt in this movie.  Anyways, let’s move on to talk about the movie, shall we? 

Twelve Monkeys is a fantastic commentary on the “what-ifs” of consumerism, lack of attention to the environment, and the over-medication of society.  The story explores how something good, like technology and medication, can be over-used and become merely a replacement disease for the disease we were curing or the suffering we were alleviating.  You have to ask yourself, “Is progress, consumerism, and self-actualization worth it if it all ends like it has in Twelve Monkeys?”  Pitt’s character reflects that it is not normal to be ant-consumer.  Life’s problems are solved through consumption and self-actualization and to think and act otherwise is to be considered crazy, and then you end up in a mental institution, like Goines.  It’s not a matter of right or wrong, in the movies opinion, but of popular opinion.  The movie is also a battle of moralistic assumptions and who sets the standard of right and wrong. 

Pitt’s performance in this movie is fantastic.  He is just the right mix of crazy and fun to make Jeffrey Goines believable and is a pre-cursor to his more prominent, anti-consumer role as Tyler Durden in Fight Club.  Willis is cast differently than his roles as John McClane, the action hero, and he does a fantastic job of having a sort of crazy, frenetic edge to his character throughout most of the film. 

Overall, this is a thought-provoking, well-acted, quality movie well worth its position in IMDb’s Top 250.  I really like this movie, and after seeing it again, like it more than I did the first time. 

Best Quote

“There’s the television. It’s all right there – all right there. Look, listen, kneel, pray. Commercials! We’re not productive anymore. We don’t make things anymore. It’s all automated. What are we *for* then? We’re consumers, Jim. Yeah. Okay, okay. Buy a lot of stuff, you’re a good citizen. But if you don’t buy a lot of stuff, if you don’t, what are you then, I ask you? What? Mentally *ill*. Fact, Jim, fact – if you don’t buy things – toilet paper, new cars, computerized yo-yos, electrically-operated sexual devices, stereo systems with brain-implanted headphones, screwdrivers with miniature built-in radar devices, voice-activated computers… “  – Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt)

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