iPlayer Radio What's New?

Film Club: Twelve Monkeys

Friday 25 January 2013, 13:32

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

The Kermode Uncut Film Club is back with Terry Gilliam's brilliant sci-fi thriller Twelve Monkeys. Watch the intro and the film and let me know what you think.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

Related Content

Film Club


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Paid my money to see this back in the day at the local flea pit. It's a magnificent piece of filmmaking. The Twelve Monkeys most certainly did it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    But what happened to Local Hero? Why no follow-up?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    yay a film i dont have to see to be a part of the chat

    the best new question is

    which is better - twelve monkeys vs looper (ignoring terminator and back to the future)

    as i type this i discover that this entire blog is about this imdb argument lol

    basically if you like clutter you prefer twelve monkeys - i prefer the minimalism of looper

    both have strong endings tho and great female performances - brad pitt ruined twelve monkeys for me

    no one can argue twelve monkeys is incredibly unique tho as is every gilliam film

    simon jones is a really lovely addition for any sci fi fan too

    oh i never knew about jeff bridges being an option - wow as much as i prefer bridges - willis had the hard look this world needed

    both are good films but looper wins for me - film of 2012

    emily blunt should of got an award big time

    or the kid pierce gagnon to go up against quvenzhané wallis for an awards 'kid off'

    and yes the twelve monkeys making of is great - as is any making of

    great choice doctor

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    For me this is Gilliam's true masterpiece. While there were things to admire about Brazil I never felt it hung together narratively. With 12 Monkeys he made one of the defining sci fi films of the past 30 years. A maze of time travel, paranoia and a dream like psychosis that stands up today as well as it did on release. Bruce Willis has never been better and I feel he was very unlucky not to get a Best Actor nom at the Oscars for this performance that showed he was so much more than a man with a gun and a witty catchphrase. The film is a triumph.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Agreed. Great film.
    I had ignored it for years but after seeing Fear and loathing and Brazil i thought i could be missing out on something good. I like how dirty and run down everything is, especially in the future. Cole is played well by Willis and you care about whether he makes it. But mostly i just love the crazy Gilliamness of it all.
    Hearing how the studio wanted to change it, again makes me wonder why they get talent like Gilliam in to direct anything. they knew what they were buying so just let him do it, otherwise why bother? i know i know, it's all about the money...

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Like most people on this blog i've seen Twelve Monkeys several times before. I first saw it on it's release, not having much enthusiasm for it, but was knocked out by how emotionally involved i was in the film. What got me was the pervading sense of sadness and melancholy, reinforced by the use of Louis Armstrong's 'What a wonderful world'.

    Twelve Monkeys illustrates that Gilliam works best when he's put on a short leash and has a script that imposes structure on him. This also contains Bruce Willis' finest performance to date. His introverted loner holds this film together with his aching nostalgia for the lost world. He and Madeline Stowe make a genuinely believable couple and it's sad knowing how their relationship ends, Brad Pitt may have gotten the Oscar nomination, but it's the two leads who give this film it's emotional heart.

    It wasn't until years later that i discovered the connection with La Jetee, having seen it the references to Vertigo are more prevalent, although it doesn't have emotional impact as Twelve Monkeys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Should we all watch a triple bill of La Jetée, Twelve Monkeys and then Looper?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Very strong film. Now thinking about it, I wonder if that sci-fi time-travel movie with Jake G* on a train owes a debt to 12 Monkeys? By the end of the movie you really feel like you've been with 12 monkeys the whole way through as time slips through your fingers. Gilliam's best movie and shows Bruce Willlis is a really solid actor who does action so well. One of those movies you feel you're staggering off a roller-coaster after watching... and Madeleine Stowe is excellent as always. I think seeing actors on side roles may tend to help you see their full range of talents, so that's always good in a movie imo eg Brad Pitt. That music is haunting too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I can clearly remember watching this in the cinema, and being blown away by it. I have to admit I am not a huge fan of (but deeply respect) Gillingham but the way the story circles in on itself is so cleverly done. It is truly a masterpiece of film making.

    I am always convinced of Willis and Pitt as boring actors. Then I remember so many great films they have proved they can do more that one genre or character. Pitt carries the maniacal, unhinged edge of the film that has you believing every other aspect of the film, to what we know is a light bulb moment.

    I have not watched it in a while but this has sparked me to revisit it.

    I am not sure anyone else could have played any of the roles better than the actors cast in the film. I think it would have been a very different film, and sometimes fate steps in to produce great work.

    Thanks for reminding me to look at my collection again, and revisit some of the better watching that sits there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Let's face it Gilliam's a bit nuts and it most definitely comes through in 12 Monkeys, however this is not bad thing. The story could so easily have been a mess, but like an unraveling ball of string Gilliams eccentricitys somehow keep it together. Brad Pitt shines as Jeffrey 'My father is God! I worship my father!' Goines. But Surely this is Willis's tour de force the movie in which he stopped being Hollywood and became an actor.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    One thing about Twelve Monkeys is that it is a time travel movie that sets out its rules and never violates them, which is something which is uncommon in any medium and most of all in film. (Looper certainly doesn't, although I enjoyed it too.)

    I remember that when I originally went to see it in the theater I was very skeptical about Brad Pitt, who at the time I thought was an actor valued more for his looks than his acting chops, but I was really impressed by his performance, at least until I saw Se7en later that year and saw him deliver it again, that time in a context where it made much less sense.

    It's a movie where the main character's primary hope is that they will be proved to be insane.

    These comments are all pretty scattered, but suffice it to say that this is one of my favorite movies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Twelve Monkeys is quite possibly the best time-travel film ever. Gilliam manages to have a Python-ish sense of psychedlic humour, an overwhelming feeling of desperation from Bruce Willis' character and uses clear imagery to generate his ideas across, like the flowered shirt in the airport, the spider that Bruce Willis eats in the hospital and the symbol for the 12 monkeys. My favorite scene though is when we realise who the man in the flowered shirt is at the end, that the answer has been staring us in the face all along. The only film you can really compare to it is (surprisingly) Time Bandits. Bandits has the same sense of desperation, psychedelic humour and time travel. In fact it has the one thing that 12 Monkeys doesn't have: Sean Connery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Twelve Monkeys. Great choice for 2013's first Film Club!! Love this film. Studied it religiously during my first year studying film at university and loved it. Bruce Willis playing a more subtle role then usual, like he does later in Unbreakable, but demonstrating he can act just as well as he can fire a gun! The real stars of the film is Brad Pitt's insanely enjoyable role Jeffrey Goines and as well as Gilliam's fantastic direction! Gilliam + Willis + Pitt + Time Travel = A bloody good romp that everyone MUST SEE!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I saw 'Looper' before '12 Monkeys' and this perhaps reaffirms my belief about which is best. I always felt that the first half of Looper was excellent. However, the second half was somewhat ran out of steam once we were confined to the old house on the plains and slowly became 'Days of Heaven' meets 'The Omen.' The film didn't fully realise the potential that was evident in the brilliant montage of JGL's transformation into Bruce Willis. '12 Monkeys' filled the gap towards the end of 'Looper,' expanding the scenery and reaching a much more ambitious conclusion. Therefore, I think it holds together much better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Saw "Twelve Monkeys" on it's original release and have the DVD. I think it is one of Terry Gilliam's best films and I agree with those who say that he is at his best when he is given boundaries for his budget and time but allowed artistic freedom within it.
    There's such a sadness that runs through this film. You desperately hope that it works out for Bruce Willis and Madelaine Stowe, or rather their characters, but realise at the end it's not going to. Love all the hints and red herrings through the film - who is sane/insane, what's real/not real. The sets, particularly the ones depicting the future, reflect Gilliam's art college background and are wonderfully grungy. The acting is superb - even Brad Pitt.
    Right, that's it, I'm off to slap the disc back into the DVD player. If you've not seen it yet, go get a copy and enjoy! This is how Gilliam should work and I have a gut feeling he should leave Johnny Depp out of his plans. Though I was wrong about Willis where Twelve Monkeys shows you how well he can really act when he's given the right part and script and good director with a passion for his film making.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Whatever happened to Madeline Stowe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    The first of these I've not had to catch up with... I had been meaning to watch this for many a year and finally got the chance when Syfy Channel showed this recently and I clapped eyes on it and adored every minute, coincidentally just before Looper came out too, big coincidence!

    A really confounding yet rewarding sci fi thriller with plenty of the Gilliam quirk but also some really great performances, especially Bruce at his very best (see also Unbreakable) and a completely nuts Brad Pitt... and a whole heap of heart, and one heck of a great ending

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    I saw this at the cinema on initial release, it's a great movie, full of Gilliams trademark mark camera work which induces a kind of mild psychedelic psychosis, as if someone has spiked your drink with acid! I've just gone and ordered it on Blu-ray for £6, it's been sometime since I've seen this, so well worth revisiting again! Having enjoyed, but not loved, Looper ( I was fully onboard until it went all Stephen King?!) I'll see how they compare...

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    looper really did split it's fans and narrative in half - i prefer the beautifully slow well acted 2nd half masterpiece - the first half was like some fast tacky jj abrams lens flare reboot nonsense

    fingers crossed 'The Zero Theorem' will be a return to form for gilliam - he is in that unique marmite world of directors like tarantino and lynch for me

    and twelve monkeys is easily his best film

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I rather liked this. I remember watching this on VHS years ago with my Dad. At the rather dramatic ending the tape was chewed up and I got so frustrated my Dad told me off. Some people may miss VHS, but I don't!

    I missed the final coda on the plane which lends a different spin on events and suggests a different outcome. A pity because my memory of the film is enjoying it but hurling a tape across the couch.


Page 1 of 5

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

AI Apology

Tuesday 22 January 2013, 12:05

Movie 43 - What The *@*! ?

Tuesday 29 January 2013, 15:35

About this Blog

Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

This twice-weekly video blog is the place where he airs his personal views on the things that most fire him up about cinema - and invites you to give your own opinions.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?