Editor's note: The thought of spending any more time on this fucking movie has stalled this post many weeks. The photos I've ultimately chosen to accompany this write-up demonstrate the fact that I just want it all to be over and also my disappointment that this movie is really not about monkeys.
Guys, today has wrought much caffeine and booze and caffeine/booze. Let's try to ride just the booze out on this one since I don't want to die and it's nearly 1 a.m. so I PROBABLY shouldn't have even more caffeine. I just ate the second half of a frozen pizza, so we'll see how it goes. I've never seen the movie or any of the new TV show, so let's time travel this shit! 12 Monkeys of 1995 when I was in late elementary school!
Deadly virus 1997. Survivors underground. Animals rule. Says a person with schizophrenia in 1990. Monkey spiral behind credits. Hey, remember going to the movies? That's a kind of cool thing sometimes. A kid watches a mass shooting in a airport, I think. Bruce Willis wakes up. Chain link cell. He's been called up for something. Some kind of giant prison. Probably going to die. A big hook reaches down for him. He's in a prep room putting on numerous layers of anti-contamination/protection suit things. He's carrying some suitcases and stuff is sprayed on him in a tube. He goes through a door and is moved down a tube. Now we're in a dark, broken down part of the factory thing, I guess. Bruce emerges on the snowy surface out of a manhole.
The city looks broken down. There's snow, a cockroach, and rotted-out looking buildings. Bruce collects a cockroach. He is scared by a legit BEAR. Nature's taken the city back, but the bear ends up walking away. Bruce investigates some kind of abandoned department store and collects a spider specimen for science. Birds are disturbed. He breathes his artificial air and walks through a snowy, broken city populated by an owl, a fucking lion, and finds something on the ground. A message: "We did it" with a red monkey symbol. Bruce is back and gets scrubbed down with a literal broom. He injects himself with some shit. He gets led as a prisoner ("volunteer") to a council of some kind. He, Mr. Cole, has been committed to a sentence of 25-life for antisocial somethingorather. The council has him sit down in what looks like an electric chair. It's very narrow. He's trapped in. The council appreciates him volunteering--doing observations topside to reduce his sentence.
Baltimore 1990. Some kind of lecture in an art gallery. A lady in all black drops her pager, almost disrupting the lecture. An overcrowded prison. Our lady comes to the prison to see a "crazy" prisoner. No drugs in his system, in restraints. He's rocking, alone. Our lady wants to find him. He's not in their system, not by fingerprints or anything. It's our friend Bruce, beat up and drooling, wearing a plastic suit. She's a psychiatrist here to help him. She wants to call him James. He wants to get out and gather information. He's upset about chains. He admits he's been locked up before, but underground. He thinks he's in 1996, but it's 1990.
The cops are transferring him to another facility. He's confused by the sunshine. They scrub him down and we see his ass again. The orderlies call him "Jimbo." He's dressed and led into the common room. We see Brad Pitt in PJs and a sweater and awesome shoes. The orderly says he'll give Pitt $5000 to show Jimbo around. It's like, a velour suit he's rocking. Pitt is clearly not with it. There are so many board games to play. He says, "If you play the games, you're voluntarily taking a tranquilizer." Jimbo wants a phone call. Pitt says they'd spread the crazy if they were allowed to access the outside world. They're not crazy, he says, just "part of the system." Consumers, blahblahblah. Pitt's name is Jeffrey. A nurse yells at him. He loves to thumbs-up. A guy in a tux says he's not really from outer space. Jeffrey yells at somebody in his chair. Why is this space, like, carved into an adobe cave? Tux claims he's mentally divergent. OKAY, DIFFERENT FRANCHISE.
James Cole tells a (1990) panel he's not "crazy." He won't hurt anyone. He talks about the Army of the 12 Monkeys. Nobody knows what he's talking about. The orderly dude is wearing a red fanny pack. The '90s, right? Cole says most of humanity died in 1996-7. He wants info to trace the path of the virus. He really wants to call a scientist. The lady psych says okay. Phone call to a phone number with a black family with a bunch of kids running around. No voice mail. Lady doc believes him. He was the kid who saw the airport attack. He had braces on. It's too soon for that phone number. He should be in 1996. Jeffrey tells James they're locked and welded in. This asylum is in a cool-ass building with a circular dorm. "Crazy is majority rules," Jeffrey says. Starts rambling about germs. Jim finds a spider. He ends up eating it, I think. Jeff says he can get him out and laughs with googly eyes. Jeffrey says his dad will send you to a classy asylum. He moons the guards. The pillows are all feathers. So many feathers.
Video of a monkey trying to get out of a cage. Sad people playing with bubbles. "We're all monkeys," says Jeff. Jim wonders if he was hurt. Video of bunnies being tested on/tortured. Jim is writing something in crayon, claims it's private. They give him meds. Later, the Marx Brothers' "Monkey Business" is on TV. Jeff has a literal key. Jim is all spaced out on drugs. Animal morphing on the TV. Jeff starts freaking out and creating a distraction for Jim. Throwing, running, riling up the other patients. Jim has the key, but is still pretty spaced out on the drugs they gave him. God, how horrible. I hope I never end up there. I'm not ruling it out. He unlocks the gates. All the guards are reading tabloids and distracted, so he can just walk out, I guess? Batboy issues. His white robe doesn't look unlike a lab coat. He finds the working elevator and goes down. All the dude doctors tease the lady doctor about James Cole. They find he's escaped. He stumbles into an MRI room. Orderlies approach. He's still very drugged. Scrapes on his head. The orderlies grab him and he fights.
Lady doctor orders a sedative, but he doesn't want more drugs. Screaming about "no more drugs" doesn't really work when he's tied down on a gurney. The other docs are lecturing Kathryn, the lady doctor. Oh, somehow he's escaped the facility. Little Jim sees the guy in the airport who gets shot and it's ponytailed Jeff. Jim wakes up in the cell and hears somebody talking to him. No clear origin for the voice. It seems Jim is back in the present. Jim is back in front of the panel in the tall metal chair He couldn't make a call. He says it was all the wrong year. They ask if he saw anyone in a slide show, and he recognizes Jeff. They are disappointed, but ask if he wants another chance to reduce his sentence.
Jim is in some kind of machine with wires and plastic and a weird leather loincloth. The council tells him "No mistakes this time, Cole." They say he'll be sent to the third quarter of 1996 this time. War. Trenches. Gas masks. It looks pretty WWI-ish to me with the long coats and stuff. He shows up, naked. Jose recognizes Clay. Yelling, air attacks, gunshot in leg.
Baltimore November 1996. Dr. K gives a talk, discussing Revelation and has some pretty sweet slides. The people don't wear a very wide variety of colors. She talks about mustard gas attacks. A photo of Jose, he claimed he was from the future and spoke English, not French like his compatriots. He said he was from 1996 and disappeared from the hospital. Cassandra Complex. A guy with a pink shirt and a bolo tie in the audience. Art gallery douches after the lecture. Pink shirt has fake red hair. So creepy. "The planet cannot outlast the excesses of the human race." Kathryn laughs politely at him while others hand her books to sign. Not-new snow as she goes to her car. Someone attacks her and forces her into the car to drive. I think he's holding a knife to her neck. She starts driving and he directs her. He demands they head toward Philadelphia. He can't drive 100 miles, he was born underground and can't drive. She realizes who he is: Jim! He hurt his leg and has been sleeping on the street. He hasn't been stalking her, he just found a flier for her talk. I think I might be flagging on this, one hour in.
Cole doesn't understand that the radio ad isn't really a special message for him. "Blueberry Hill" comes on and everybody in the car is teary-eyed for different reasons. Jim breathes the outside air. "It's a Wonderful World" now. Jimbo is tired. Next day, authorities are tracking him and Kathryn down. Jim wakes up in a motel room from the flashback to cartoons on TV. He's wearing dirty coveralls. He tells Kathryn that her hair is different in the dream he just had. She's tied up in sheets. She thinks he has a fever. He's limping from that WWI gunshot. On the news, a kid has been trapped in a well. The media is tracking Kathryn and James.
Jim says he's looking for the Army of the 12 Monkeys and the activists claim they don't know anything. He pulls a gun. He finds out Jeff is into guerrilla activism. But after saying they're going to human-hunt, Jeff says he'll take over his dad (the virologist)'s lab experiments on animals. Reading this later, I can't reinterpret my description of this scene to make sense, so let's just move on. Kathryn drives off in a Volvo with Jim, who's looking through the animal people's rolodex. Kathryn finds out he's got a bullet wound. They stop at a rural gas station for medical supplies. She takes out the bullet. She "smells so good." Is he going to rape her?
Next we see Jim hiding on (in?) a Range Rover at a fancy event. The gun lies abandoned. Inside the mansion, a fancy banquet. Jeff's douche dad gives a speech. Jeff sleeps in the back of the room, wearing a ponytail, mustache, and glasses. He gets called out of the meeting. He picks up his shoes and leaves with the guy. Jim's asked for Jeff, who has the best crazy brown eyes. He says he's there about some monkeys. Jeff starts calling Jim "Arnie" now. Jim knows he can't stop him, but he wants access to the pure virus. Jim tells him in the future "we live like dogs and cats." Jeff wildly yells at him as security tries to lead him out. Jim jumps and lands on his injured leg.
On the news, a monkey is lowered into the missing kid's well with a sandwich (WTF? Just lower the fucking sandwich). It also says a body has been found somewhere and it may by Kathryn. Mansion security finds no one in the kitchen. Jim runs through the woods to the car and lets Kathryn out of the trunk. She is pissed because of how she could've died in there and starts punching him. Jim is upset because Jeff claimed the virus was Jim's idea in the institution. The police close in on them. Suddenly Jim disappears. Really young SVU guy. She says Jim needs help, but he did save her life. Back at home, Kathryn can't sleep. She's being guarded by numerous cops. She finds out the kid in the well was actually hiding in a barn. JUST LIKE JIM SAID.
Back to the future, the panel sings "Blueberry Hill" and are very pleased with his work. They say with a little more work, he can get his pardon for his crimes. There are creepy teddy bears on his blanket. He tells the council they're just in his mind and he wants to get well. They inject him as he crazy-laughs. Kathryn tries to tell her supervisor that Jim may really know what is really going to happen. Jim wakes up in the hospital bed and hears the whispers again. He saw the whisperer as a crazy homeless man in 1996. The voice keeps calling him Bob and tells him Jim wants to see that sky and ocean and to be with "her." Kathryn can't sleep soundly. The phone rings. It's the douchey Philly detective again. The bullet from Jim's thigh was from the 1920s at the latest. She goes to a WWI book and finds a photo of Jose. On her crazy wall of photos and notes she finds a pic of Jim reaching towards Jose's body.
Jim is being interrogated by the council again. He says he has experience, so he should go back to the past. He regrets saying the council wasn't real. Jeff's dad chuckles about a monkey army on the phone as animal testing occurs all around him. "Women psychiatrists," Jeff's dad mutters. The pink shirt/bolo tie guy from earlier is working in the lab. Maybe they should upgrade their security? The council, with their plastic-covered lab coats interrogates Jim about the virus sources. Kathryn tries to get into the FAA office. The homeless guy is back. He pretends now he doesn't know who James is. The activists are doing something. Jeff is inside writing things down. He knows Kathryn was his psychiatrist. She spray-paints their building in red until James shows up. He's cold but wants to turn himself in. He claims he wants to get better. She starts to lead him away from the cops she knows are watching. "Is this the source? What is the virus? 5000000 die?" on the wall. Jim's seen it before in the future. Honking.
Kathryn and James both dab their bleeding faces as they get off a bus. They go to find a phone. Kathryn's going to try that number on a public phone. Jim recognizes a building. He sees a bear statue. Kathryn is excited. She left a message for a "carpet cleaning" business. He knows the message. Uh-oh. It grows dark. They buy new clothes. The (12 Monkey) Army has a plan and a sketchy bus. They've kidnapped Jeff's dad. "Biohazard" tape on his eyes. He says he took steps after Kathryn talked to him and no longer has virus access. Jeff says it's too late and that also, he's not insane.
Vertigo is playing in the theater.* Kathryn says they have to try to change things. She puts a fake mustache on his face. Somebody shushes them as she gives him a wig and says if he is crazy, in a few weeks, if the outbreak hasn't started, then it doesn't matter. Something about the ocean. A zoo. Jeff's dad looks for him. A scene from The Birds. Is this some kind of Hitchcock festival? Blonde Kathryn in the airport. Jim finds Kathryn in the lobby with a blonde wig. It's her. They have tickets to Key West. She feels as though she's always known him with a mustache and sketchy beard. They embrace. He's so scared. Animals let loose in the morning. Elephants, tigers, monkeys. A bear. The Army let the animals out, a taxi driver tells them. Kathryn thinks it's all going to be okay. The cops are looking for Kathryn and Jim. Jim says this airport is from his dream. DUHHH. She wants to hide him. Sends him to fix his mustache. They kiss, awkwardly. She goes to get their tickets.
WHAT IS REALLY HAPPENING. Jim knows now it wasn't the Army who caused the virus. It was someone else, as he tells the carpet cleaners' answering machine. Who is it? The redheaded dude with the bolo tie! Jim re-glues his mustache. Somebody in the bathroom tells him he doesn't belong there. Jim runs into Jose. The future council has found him from his phone message. Jim tries to give him a gun. Kathryn almost recognizes the redheaded dude. Jose's supposed to kill Kathryn. The pardon's not about the virus at all. Redhead due has weird shit in his bag. Giant vials. "Biological samples" he says. The TSA guy wants to open it. Kid James. Redhead opens one vial. The security people don't want to let Kathryn and James through. Redhead's already opened the shit. She tries to point redhead out. Little James watches Grown James get shot by the police before he can shoot redhead. Kathryn screams and tries to stop the bleeding. James mouths something as his younger self watches him die. Kathryn cries. She sees Little James, who is also crying.
Redhead gets on the plane. LIKE THEY WOULDN'T SHUT DOWN ALL FLIGHTS IF THERE WERE A SHOOTING IN THE TERMINAL WHAT IS THIS MOVIE PRE-9/11 WHAT. The woman next to him in First Class is from the future council. "We're the next endangered species." She's in insurance. Little James watches the plane lift off. THE END.
Okay, whatever. This whole thing has been kind of a chore.
*My first proper outing with my first boyfriend was to a free campus showing of Vertigo in early April 2003 and we held hands very intimately and he put this awesome song on the first mix CD he made me.