Monday, March 27, 2017


Dossier: 12 Monkeys.

Filetype: Film.

File Under: Stateless dystopia.
Executive Summary: After a flu wipes out nearly all of the world, a man named Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to try to stop the catastrophe.

In the past (1990 & 1996), Cole meets Dr. Katherine Railly (Madeleine Stowe), who he eventually convinces to trust him. Together they try to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys from unleashing the virus.

Dystopian Visions: in 12 Monkeys, the future vision is dystopic: survivors are forced to live underground, there are scant resources, and the fate of the world is being placed on a faulty time travel machine. 

However, the vision of the past (at the time of the movie's release: the present) is also dystopic: environmental degradation is turning the world amok, violence permeates all areas, and through director Terry Gilliam's gaze everything seems slightly skewed with a tainted color palette.

Utopian Undercurrents: Not much (depending on how you view the ending--so maybe quite a bit?). Arguably, there's the love story but it's not exactly a cheerful one.

Level of Hell: Eighth for the post-apocalyptic world, where everything is gone beyond repair (though there's still a fool's sliver of hope). Fifth for the pre-apocalyptic world: there's not a lot redeeming humanity here. Though there is still a different kind of hope.

Legacy: It's critically extremely well regarded (and rightly thought of as one of the best time-travel movies). It also has spawned the well-regarded television adaptation of the same title.

In Retrospect: It's one of my favorite films of all time and I've watched it probably two dozen times at least. So obviously I think it deserves its spot of critical acclaim. It's one of Gilliam's finest and the performances are all perfect. It's also an apocalyptic vision that can be reviewed at different points to understand different levels. Watching it in 1995 was a completely different experience than viewing it now--when the havoc humans have wreaked on the environment is truly showing itself.


For its time: 5/5
Read today: 5/5.
Oppressometer Readout: 5/10.