During COVID most Americans have found themselves binge watching television. And why not? You can’t go anywhere except for groceries and take out. Some businesses are opening back up but I get the feeling we’re a long way from being back to normal. Movies and shows about epidemics and disaster are big right now so here’s my top pick for virus movie. 12 Monkeys. You have your pick, the 1995 film directed by Terry Gilliam or the SYFY series which ran from 2015-2018. Haven’t seen them? If you watch one you might as well watch the other.
The movie’s tighter, fast-paced but movies don’t have the luxury of spreading the story over four seasons. The script by Chris Marker and David and Janet Peoples captures the frenetic pace of the hero, sent back in time to find the origin of a plague that’s wiped out most of humanity. His controllers wink him out and back in to check his progress, furthering the mania already present in the poor man. I couldn’t tell if the people kept in cages only large enough to lie down in are potential test subjects for time travel or if everyone lives like this. It’s awful to imagine and the social spacing of these cages is prescient.
Bruce Willis plays James Cole, the traveler, a man driven by his misery to agree to it all and we find him collecting specimens and tracking down Dr. Cassandra Railly, a virologist who left a message for the future. But how did she know? That’s what I love about time paradox films and this one is a whopper. Madeleine Stowe (Dr. Railly) looks quite fragile. She’s anything but as Cole drags her around the city, fueled by his mission, crippled by his mental instability and she gets drawn all the way in to the madness.
Against type, the real corker is Brad Pitt as Jeffrey Goines, the schizophrenic son of Dr. Leland Goines. Pitt got the Oscar for his portrayal of Jeffrey, a young man with a heavy bent on animal rights and anti-corporation, the leaders of a shadowy group called The Army of The Twelve Monkeys. That’s precisely who the future scientists are looking for.
I don’t want to give anything away because three quarters of the thrill in this movie are due to Cole’s flashbacks to a scene at an airport and the real flashes from past to future. The script manages to keep us unaware of what’s going to happen until the last few minutes of the movie.
The series stars Aaron Stanford (X Men) as Cole and Amanda Schull (Devil’s Gate) as Dr. Railly. They did a brilliant piece of casting when they hired Emily Hampshire (Boy Meets Girl) to play Jennifer Goines. It proves that a girl can be as lunatic and mesmerizing as a guy.
Even though I found the series development to be a little far flung at times, it’s still fun to watch. Hampshire’s antics provide much-needed comic relief and there was time to further a romantic sub-plot between Cole and Cassandra. As I already said, I love time travel shows and 12 Monkeys is all about time hopping.
If you care to check it out, both movie and series were based on a 1962 French short film, La Jette, directed by Chris Marker. It’s mostly narration over still photos with the actors never speaking. The time travel is replaced here by post-nuclear. In my current mode of immersion, I’ll probably have to watch it, maybe on You Tube, in spite of their annoying tendency to interrupt with commercials. I hate that crap. Why don’t they have the courtesy to wait until the end so we can hit the stop button? They already post ads that won’t let you skip them and go on to what you wanted to watch in the first place.
I already know the answer. You can’t sell anything that way.