Plot: What’s it about?
It’s hard to believe that a member of Monty Python (yes, they were a group and not just one person) has arisen and become one of the most acclaimed directors of our day. With movies like “Brazil” (which, sadly, I have never seen), “Time Bandits” and “The Fisher King” under his belt, Gilliam brings us this futuristic and very frightening tale of the of what lies ahead, or I should say what could lie ahead. Actor Brad Pitt recently called his role in “Fight Club” the best script he’s ever been handed. Now I disagree, his role in Fight Club was very good, and he played it well…but in terms of a role that I remember him in, it’s his role in this movie as mental patient, Jeffrey Goines. The rest of the cast is superb as well, with Bruce Willis in the lead as James Cole, Madeline Stowe as psychairist Dr. Kathryn Railly and the always wonderful Christopher Plummer as Dr. Goines (Jeffrey’s father). So that brings us to the plot…this is hard to put into words, but I’ll give it a try. This movie is another of those that leaps back and forth through time, not so much that you can’t tell what is going on, but enough to keep you on your toes and keep you paying attention. It starts out as James Cole (Willis) has been called from his prision cell. He’s been called to go back through time to stop and event happening, the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Now, the future of this movie isn’t at all like that of Star Trek or anything like that, it’s a run down, yet highly technologically advanced civilization that has been forced to retreat underground to live. The scientists, who rule with an iron fist, want to change all that and have been sending their inmates back through time (so far unsuccessfully) to stop an event that started all the confusion in the first place. The time machine itselt looks more like something you would use to pump water off a ship than travel through time, but they don’t go into the innerworking of it, and it’s just as well. Accuracy isn’t the time machine’s fortee, either. Willis ends up at a battle in World War I and then misses his destination by another 6 years before landing at the right place and time. While on his second trip (he was only in WWI for a few miutes), he lands in the year 1990. He was given a telephone number to dial, that in the correct year (1996) would accomplish his mission, instead he manages to get comitted where he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly and fellow inmate Jeffrey Goines (Pitt). Now let me go off on Pitt’s job in this movie, if I may…We’ve all been told that it’s easy to play a psycho, but Pitt turns it up a notch and gives the character a very nervous, awkward sense about it. It’s no wonder that he was nominated for an Academy Award for this role. Willis finally makes it to the right time and place and is set out to stop the “Army of the 12 Monkeys”. He catches up with Goines again (who is now out of the instituion, but still as crazy) and together they set an end to what they think will be the end of the world. Do they suceed? 12 Monkeys, much like The Usual Suspects, is a movie that you almost have to view at least twice before you have a complete understanding of the scope of the movie. Terry Gilliam is a brilliant director, and I think he wants it this way. Willis plays his low-key character, but not enough where you don’t care about him and the higlight of the show is Pitt’s performance. Not many movies come around that make you think about them after the credits roll, but this (as with Gilliam’s other movies) is quite the exception.
Video: How does it look?
Universal has released this in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is outstanding. Gilliam’s portrait of the future is dark and dismal, and the “past” is shot in a lot of grey shades and at night. Not a hint of artifacting, not a bit of shimmering and black levels are right on target. Look at 12 Monkeys as a way that DVD should be.
Audio: How does it sound?
This is the DTS version, and I also own the Dolby Digital version. Where the Dolby Digital version lacks, this definately picks up the slack. While neither version will blow you away with it’s sound (as this is a movie for story and not sound), the DTS does a good job at reproducing the subtle effects that the Dolby Digital version leaves behind. A good example is when Willis is going back through time, the effects are literally surrounding you, and that heightens the movies excitement in a quite a few ways.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are no extras on this disc. While the sound on this disc is a better mix overall, I would have to say that for the same money you should go a head and buy the Dolby Digital version. Now, if the discs were equal in accordance with features, I’d say go DTS…but the Dolby Digital version is a Collector’s Edition disc with trailers, documentarys, cast and crew bios and above all–a Terry Gilliam commentary. I’m thinking it’s because of discs like these, that Universal started putting both soundtracks (Bowfinger, The Bone Collector) and all the supplements on one disc.