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Blu-ray Review: 12 Monkeys

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Written by Pirata Hermosa

It’s the year 2035 and humanity has been reduced to living underground because of a virus that ravaged the planet and killed off most of the world’s population. The future is bleak and the inhabitants of the underworld are looking for a way to return to the surface. The only way to battle the disease is for them to send “Volunteers” out into the world and into the past to collect specimens.

James Cole (Bruce Willis) is the latest prison inmate to get volunteered into the program. He does such a good job, that he is chosen to go after the source of the virus. The scientists aren’t sure what the source is, but they do know that it first appears in Philadelphia and that a group called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys may be involved somehow.

On his first mission into the past, James is sent to the wrong time. It seems that time travel isn’t an exact science. Instead of 1996, James finds himself in 1990 disoriented and wearing nothing but see-through plastic. He is mistakenly picked up by the police and is taken to a mental institute.

While in the hospital, James meets Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), who is the psychiatrist assigned to his case. He also befriends Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), a total psychopath that actually belongs in the loony bin.

After a failed escape attempt, James is returned to 2035 where he has to explain why his mission failed. Giving him another chance, the scientists try to send him to the year 1996. Once again they fail to deliver him to the correct time and he ends up in the middle of World War I.

Eventually, they get him to the right time and place and James is surprised to find that his crazy friend Jeffrey has a connection with the Army of the 12 Monkeys. His father is the director of a biological laboratory.

In order to find out the truth, James kidnaps Kathryn to help him on his journey. At first she is reluctant, but as things begin to unravel and James’ stories start coming true she slowly becomes a believer. While Kathryn starts to believe, James becomes more and more confused. The stress of the constant time traveling mixed with the strange dreams from his past and his desire to live a normal life causes him to think that he really is crazy.

I won’t give away the ending, because there are a few plot twists, but it’s really difficult to review a film that was originally released 14 years ago. In 1995 the film was new and fresh and had a gritty appeal to it. In 2009 it’s a film with a very familiar storyline and outdated special effects. It’s really difficult to make a film stand the test of time because in this era whenever there’s a good movie idea, everyone tries to capitalize on it and ends up beating it into the ground. And the theory of time travel has been worked to death in the last few years.

Even so, it’s a film worth watching if you haven’t seen it before. It was directed by Terry Gilliam, who always gives a unique and interesting perspective to all of his films, and both Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt give excellent performances.

The film is presented in 1080p High-Definition Widescreen format with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Normally, while watching a film I don't really even notice the quality. I just take it for granted because there's no real comparison, but this time I threw in my Collector's Edition DVD and compared the two. I was actually surprised at the difference. The Blu-Ray is a much crisper version and everything on the screen seems to really pop out at you. The same can be said for the Blu-Ray audio which uses a DTS-HD Master Audio 5. The sounds are much richer and deeper than the regular DVD.

There are three special features on the Blu-Ray disc:

Commentary with Director Terry Gilliam and Producer Charles Rowen

The Hamster Factor & Other Tales of 12 Monkeys- a 90-minute documentary on the making of the film. It’s actually quite interesting as it takes you behind the scenes and deals with some of the issues such as budget matters, getting funding for a film, set creation, amd Gilliam’s dislike for the Hollywood process. It’s not just your typical actors just goofing around behind the camera.

12 Monkeys Archives- Consists of concept art and drawings for the film.

All of these features are the same as what has already been released on DVD. The latter two are done in 480 i/p Standard Definition and are more the quality of something you would get off television and not from a feature film. I already had the Special Edition on DVD and it’s exactly the same, so if you already own the DVD I don’t think it would be necessary to purchase the Blu-Ray as well.

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