12 Monkeys

12MonkeysYou meet the most interesting people on the subway. Last week on a ride downtown I listened to my seat mate rant on about how he would like to see downtown Houston completely destroyed by a bomb. And that he would like to watch. And that it was going to happen soon because there were forces at work to dismantle the West’s oil industry and Houston was its primary target. And that after Houston and the oil industry was halted we would all return to life as it was in the 1800s. And that seemed to appeal to my seat mate.

It’s not the first time I’ve listened to the apocalyptic visions of paranoid schizophrenic, it’s almost unavoidable if you’ve spent anytime on the 6 train in and out of Brooklyn. I imagine it won’t be my last considering here in Houston it strikes me as becoming more frequent.

That’s said, Hollywood itself may be playing to apocalypse-mania by consistently laying down post-apocalyptic films like this one 12 Monkeys. Its been on my watch list forever, not for its screenplay rather its density of well-known actors.

It’s an odd film, starting out with a heavy tango soundtrack and its main protagonist, played by Bruce Willis, being ‘volunteered’ to visit to the surface of the Earth to assess whether its inhabitable. Its clear from the pans of a completely vacant and disheveled Manhattan that something cataclysmic occurred. Judging by the DefCon 4 protective suits necessary to visit the surface, it was a destructive virus. Whoever was left standing then, now lives below ground.

After returning from the surface, Willis is sent back through time to locate the Army of the 12 Monkeys, the group dispatching the initial virus which would mutate and kill almost everyone on Earth. His mission is to stop them from releasing the virus. First time he is sent back to the wrong year and officials institutionalize him for schizophrenia after he engages in way too much time travel talk. He manages to escape only to be sent back again but with more precision. He locates the Army of 12 Monkeys but the story evolves with ambiguity – are the events real or are they the hallucinations of a schizophrenic.

Aside from a few scenes with late 90’s cars, 12 Monkeys, which was released in 1996, does not feel dated in terms of its cinematography, which comes across visually as a Brazil meets The Walking Dead.

Acting is good and on occasion stellar. Bruce Willis has always excelled at playing somewhat emotionally distorted characters. He definitely does so here, convincingly portraying a man who is oppressed and manipulated by ‘the government’ to change the course of the past. Facial expressions and body language are constantly inferring even he doubts his own sanity. Brad Pitt also does a decent job playing a  disturbed misanthrope and leader of the Army of 12 Monkeys,  hiding under the guise of a wealthy virologist’s dutiful son.

I liked this film for its production style, good acting and script that creates a reality vs. schizophrenic delusion story line. If you’re looking for a good post-apocalypse film with interesting plot twists and notable acting from Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys is a good watch.

 

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