Providing a strange link to our title, Twelve Monkeys evolves from dark neo-noir sci-fi into something poignant about human existence, time, and whether our mark on it is justified.
After a virus wipes out almost all the population, the meagre scraps that remain of humanity are forced underground, into squalid conditions. Haphazardly, scientists patch together a plan, involving unreliable time travel, to send prisoners, or 'volunteers', back into the past to identify the source of the virus which is believed to have come from animal rights group Twelve Monkeys.
James Cole (Bruce Willis) is pushed forward into volunteering, becoming the next guinea pig in their experiment. After numerous botched time travel attempts, Cole starts to question whether he is going mad as worlds shift in and out of truth. And all the while, the possibility of mass annihilation awaits its grizzly entrance...
Terry Gilliam's film, despite having two superstars in its cast, is a thoughtful film about consumerism, humanity and consequence. While Gilliam cites that the script, written by David People and Janet Peoples, is responsible for the genius behind the film's unique premise, you'd have to be blind to miss Gilliam's contribution. The orb of strange eyes and magnified faces which floats maliciously in Bruce Willis's face is pure Gilliam. His direction is decisive and strong, evidenced by every set or subliminal message. 'Come to Key West!' displays one of the countless ads screaming about this wonderful holiday spot. It's only until it's too late do we realise how darkly comic these ads are.
Towards the end, the film becomes a deeper observation of human history. Gilliam comments on our humanity's bloody smear left on Earth's timeline. Do we deserve to be saved? A scene in a cinema featuring the tree scene from Vertigo drives this point home. While the symbolism ball gets fumbled a bit here, it quickly is set back on track for a decisive goal in the film's finale.
Rife with boundary-breaking performances and the irresistible influence of Terry Gilliam, Twelve Monkeys is a seminal piece on humanity that never shies away from tragedy.