Movie Review – “12 Monkeys”

I really should be studying for Wednesday’s final
exam, so naturally I chose to watch and review this
little film.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Bruce Willis as James Cole

Madeleine Stowe as Kathryn Railly

Brad Pitt as Jeffrey Goines

Christopher Plummer as leland Goines

Written by David & Janet Peoples, based on “La Jetee” by Chris Marker

Directed by Terry Gilliam

Complete information is available from the

This DVD release
includes english-only soundtracks.


A prisoner from the future is sent to the 1990s to gather information about a virus that nearly destroyed the world.

High Point

“Get out of my chair!”

Low Point

You’d think the marquee on the theater would match the movies actually being shown. (One title was there, but the other was

The Scores

As an adaptation, it’s automatically limited in the originality category. While it also bears some cursory
similarities to The Terminator, the execution is completely
different (except for the blue colour filters in the future, but
they’re very appropriate.) I give it 4 out of 6.

The effects were fairly limited. The only technology we
don’t already have access to was either left off screen, or simulated with a fast pan, which was effective for that technology. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is very well written, without wasting any time on
non-essentials. This is almost unfortunate, as there are a few
moments that feel extraneous at first. Those moments seem so out of
place that I figured out the twist just by trying to figure out why
they were there at all. I give it 5 out of 6.

The acting was very good. Between this and Fight
, Brad Pitt has earned the benefit of the doubt for the rest of his career. Bruce Willis does some very good
work, too, particularly in the hospital and first car scenes.
Madeliene Stowe didn’t get the chance to do any extreme emotion apart from the damsel in distress, but she did that convincingly. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response this produced is strong even on
repeated viewings. This is science fiction with a social message, but without pretensions, which is an all-too-rare combination. I give it 5 out of 6.

The production excelled in the areas of set design,
costuming, and musical score. The camera work in the first act is
also well done, using hand-held cameras for the sanitarium scenes, and long shots to establish the state of the future world. After that, it became pretty standard, resorting to the tried and tested angles that most Hollywood films use, and some medium shots when close-ups would be more personal, and more disturbingly claustrophobic. It’s good, but could have been better. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, it’s a very good psychological movie, despite the
standard dramatic direction in the last half. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, 12 Monkeys receives 33 out of 42.

3 replies on “Movie Review – “12 Monkeys””

  1. I like…
    … the determinism. The cold nature of time moving forward to the doom of civilization as we know it. I like how the main duo are planning not to try and change everything, just get away and hide. But then, like many time travel movies, they get the crazy notion that they can change things, and it robs them of their happy ending. The march of (pre)determined events may have been willing to let them go, if they had not tried to interfere with what they knew would be. Alas, it wasn’t to be that way and so it wasn’t that way.

  2. One of my favorites!
    If you haven’t seen this, go get it. I highly recommend it.
    Very enjoyable. Well written. Great acting.
    The review mentioned Bruce Willis’s character’s somewhat predictable twist at the end, but there was another enjoyable twist with the focus on Brad Pitt’s character (and the movie’s title).

    I also liked the pun at the very end. She is in “insurance”. heh.

    I also liked how the powers-that-be in the future are NOT trying to stop the disaster, but only trying to obtain information to help them in their present. Stopping the disaster would of course insure that they are NOT the powers-that-be and perhaps would not even exist.

    • Re: One of my favorites!

      I really enjoyed this film. I guess it’s possible that the powers-that-be don’t want to stop the disaster, though I’ve always assumed the movie was contending that past can’t be changed.

      Has anyone here watched “La Jetee?” It has quite a critical reputation.

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