Twelve Monkeys stars Bruce Willis as Cole, a man living in the year 2035 as a member of the 1% of the population left on Earth, thanks to a mystery virus which swept the planet back in 1997 killing five billion people, leaving the survivors no choice but to abandon the surface leaving the animals to rule the world once again.
The film begins with Cole as a child at the airport hearing a gunshot and seeing a long-haired man keel over, closely followed by a blonde woman screaming and running over to help him. Then we’re back to the present as Cole wakes up, his job as a ‘volunteer’ to take samples on the surface of the planet for analysis.
Events take Cole back in time to April 12th, 1990, where he becomes a mental patient at Baltimore County Hospital, the doctors, including Dr. Kathryn Railly, played by Madeline Stowe, not understanding his ramblings about the world and its impending doom, although one of his fellow ‘inmates’ Jeffrey, played brilliantly by a psychotic Brad Pitt seems to appear in full agreement with him. After another chain of events, Cole is thrust forward to 1996 where he comes across Dr. Railly and Jeffrey again, and sees it as his destiny to find out what killed the planet’s populaion, and just what the mysterious Army of the 12 Monkeys have to do with all of this. Can he succeed? In a typical Hollywood film you might say yes, but with director Terry Gilliam at the helm, nothing is typical, or predictable.
This film has so much going for it, that there’s no way it can fail as superb entertainment, keeping Bruce Willis in the actor’s A-list, and as he proved in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, he’s an all-round actor who can apply himself to much more than a straight-forward action role.
Madeline Stowe serves adequately in the role as the good doctor, but Brad Pitt, in a role which earned him an Oscar nomination, is excellent as the psyched-out mental patient who helps Bruce Willis escape from the institution, only to be captured again…
Director Terry Gilliam‘s fantastic visuals are presented in the original 1.85:1 anamorphic ratio and look mostly fine, but there is some haziness on the image that can be seen and there’s no reason for it to be there. Another oddity is that the image is slightly truncated left and right during the opening credits. Anyone watching this disc will have their machine hooked up to the TV via HDMI so gone are the days of overscan, which makes it plain to see, and there’s no logical reason why it would be presented in this way. As soon as Gilliam’s directing credit disappears, 8 minutes into the film, the picture is in the exact 1.85:1 ratio. For the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 37″ Plasma screen via a Samsung BD-P1500 Blu-ray player.
The sound is in DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio and it accompanies the bizarre script perfectly. One thing you’ll remember the most is the score from Paul Buckmaster, while the rest of it comes across perfectly for dialogue, ambience and the occasional light tune such as “Wonderful World, all drawing you into Cole’s world and the madness that inhabits it.
The extras are as follows:
- “The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of the Twelve Monkeys” (1:27:35): A feature-length “making of”, the hamster factor being that Gilliam likes to include a hamster in all the films he makes. This supplemental contains 14 chapters, which is great compared to the DVD version, back in 1999, which was totally chapterless.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:25): Presented in 1.85:1 letterbox.
- 12 Monkeys Archives: 237 images relating to the film. No, I didn’t count them all, but there are 238 chapters to this segment and on this disc, like with everything else, the final chapter comes right at the end of it all, so it’s “number of chapters – 1”.
- Audio commentary from director Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven.
- BD Live: Hook your Blu-ray player up online and I understand this takes you to Universal’s online portal where you can view various trailers, but I can never get this function to work on other discs so haven’t actually tried it with this one.
The menu mixes footage from the film with a short piece of the opening theme playing over and over. There are subtitles in English and many other languages – with the subtitles oddly appearing at different points on the screen attributable to where the actor is – which is just distracting. Chapters is excellent, though, with 44 throughout the entire 130-minute running time.
Running time: 130 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Released: October 4th 2009
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 5.1
Languages: English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian
Subtitles: English plus 14 other languages
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Terry Gilliam
Producer: Charles Roven
Screenplay: David Peoples and Janet Peoples (inspired by the film “La Jetee” written by Chris Marker)
Music: Paul Buckmaster
James Cole: Bruce Willis
Dr. Kathryn Railly: Madeleine Stowe
Jeffrey Goines: Brad Pitt
Dr. Goines: Christopher Plummer
Dr. Peters: David Morse
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.