'12 Monkeys: Special Edition'
(Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, Christopher Meloni, et al / Blu-ray / R / (1995) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: In 1996, a deadly virus is unleashed by a group calling themselves the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, destroying much of the world's population and forcing survivors underground. In 2035, prisoner James Cole (Bruce Willis, Die Hard) is chosen to go back in time and help scientists in their search for a cure.
Blu-ray Verdict: Following the commercial and critical success of The Fisher King, Terry Gilliam next feature would turn to science fiction and a screenplay by Janet and David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven) inspired by Chris Marker's classic short film La Jetée.
Featuring an Oscar-nominated turn by Brad Pitt (Fight Club) as mental patient Jeffrey Goines, '12 Monkeys' would become Gilliam's most successful film and is now widely regarded as a sci-fi classic. Arrow Films are proud to present the film in a stunning new restoration.
To my humble mind, '12 Monkeys' is a rare treat that diverts from the traditional Hollywood fare one might expect from the film (being directed by Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame) and with both big-name Hollywood stars Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt on board, well, what more could you ask for?
However, rather than tell a generic time travel story, that deals with consequence and effect, '12 Monkeys' instead tells an ambiguous tale of a central character walking a fine line between reality and insanity.
The viewer can easily make a conscious decision while watching the film to buy into the time travel story and Cole's plight, or they can interpret the film as the delusional visions of a clinically insane man.
Gilliam's fantastic work offers evidence to support both interpretations, and the film can be enjoyed many times as the viewer picks up the many clues to determine their own interpretation of the events.
The acting is fantastic. Willis plays Cole with both alarming savagery and arresting sincerity. Stowe is as talented as she is hauntingly beautiful, and her role as the non-believer gradually accepting an unbelievable reality becomes increasingly compelling, as we see her own grip on reality crumble as Cole's does.
Pitt is outstanding also. His delivery of complicated machine-gun fire dialogue is both funny and disturbing, and although his character takes a back seat for a large portion of the film, he nonetheless greatly enhances the film with his presence.
In closing, '12 Monkeys' isn't a film that has broad appeal. Its imagery is largely very gritty and dirty - a stark contrast to the early scenes that are exceptionally stale - its story ambiguous, and there are plenty of simply bizarre scenes and characters.
Still, it is a film that will reward the patient viewer with a clever and moving vision of a tortured soul and his heartbreaking struggle. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Terry Gilliam
DTS 5.1 Master Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Audio commentary by Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven
The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, feature-length making-of documentary by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe (Lost in La Mancha)
Extensive image gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathan Rabin and archive materials