100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 93: 12 MONKEYS

by Brek the David

12 Monkeys (1995) – Director: Terry Gilliam Screenplay: David Webb Peoples Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeline Stowe, Brad Pitt OSCAR COUNT (0) Brad Pitt was nominated for best supporting Actor which remains his only Oscar nomination.

“James Cole: I’m here about some monkeys.
Jeffrey Goines: Monkeys?
James Cole: Monkeys. Yes. Twelve of them”

I might be overrating 12 Monkeys, but I’ll gladly admit that I adore Terry Gilliam and could be overly biased here. I think the man is beyond brilliant, and so is his 12 Monkeys. In the future, we’ve almost killed ourselves with some terrible catastrophe supposedly perpetrated by the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Mankind is forced underground, and a convict played by Bruce Willis is sent back in time to find out as much information as he can so the future can attempt to learn from the past.

12 Monkeys masterfully perpetuates a sense of dread and foreboding. It’s also masterfully layered, filled with symbolism and allegory. This was the first film in which I truly could not deny Brad Pitt’s acting ability. I never thought he was bad, but he impressed the hell out of me here in 12 Monkeys. And that’s another aspect of greatness with 12 Monkeys, yes it’s brilliantly written, shot, and directed, but it’s also perfectly cast and the actors turn in some of their best performances of their careers. Gilliam gets greatness from Willis and a solid portrayal from Madeleine Stowe, an actress of average ability, and of course Brad Pitt with his manic and wild Jeffrey Goines.

Besides the mindfuck ending, a touching, poignant moment occurs when Cole hears Blueberry Hill on the radio, reminding him that everything mankind (and he) had is now gone, and what we (he) had was a great thing we took for granted. It was this moment in the film that I realized I was watching greatness the first time I saw 12 Monkeys, and it remains my favorite scene of the film to this day.

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