This film is another great blend of neo-noir and science fiction. It also bears the slightly madcap earmarks of a Terry Gilliam-directed movie. Other examples would include Brazil and Time Bandits.
The story is about a prisoner named Cole (played by Bruce Willis) from the year 2035, who’s sent back in time to prevent a deadly virus from being released in 1996. You see, this virus pretty much kills everyone—almost. The few survivors are forced to live underground, because the surface is barren and polluted. The only lead they have in 2035 is the name of a group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. And Cole has recurring dreams of a foot chase and an airport shooting.
Unfortunately, Cole ends up arriving six years too early and is confined to a mental hospital, where he’s placed under the care of Dr. Kathryn Railley (played by Madeleine Stowe). That’s also where he meets Jeffrey Goines (played with wacky glee by Brad Pitt), who pretty much chews the scenery with his wild and crazy act.
Now, I’m not going to trot out the whole plot, but it does involve a lot of time shifting and foreshadowing. Plus the Army of the Twelve Monkeys—but not quite in the way the future scientists expect.
The story twists and turns its way through time and geographical location. Apart from the obvious message about poisoning our environment, the film’s subtext suggests that not only is humanity doomed for failing to connect in the here and now, but that we can’t even learn from looking to the past.
In closing, I’ll pose this question. How different is a neo-noir/sci-fi film from a dystopian sci-fi film?
I highly recommend that everyone who enjoys sci-fi of a downbeat tenor see this movie!