The Coastal Post - February, 1996

Monkey Business—Time Warp In Terra Linda

BY JIM SCANLON

Is it possible that the past, the present and the future all exist simultaneously in an infinite, interacting loop—over and over, in an endless deja vu? Well, that is what the sci-fi movie "Twelve Monkeys" is about. A clever film of the prophetic paranoid victim type: a beat-up, insecure Bruce Willis has a frightening message no one believes. With failure after failure and being hounded and zonked out on thorazine (he drools and drools), even Bruce starts to doubt his sanity.

The action takes place in the near future, say maybe 2030 or so, and then back to 1990 and finally 1996, the year before billions of people die from a mutant monkey virus.

I got to the theater early and asked the woman in the soundproof booth if the next show was at 1:50 or 2:50. She misunderstood and told me the matinee price: "It's $4.50." I killed a little time and noticed as I entered at 1:50 that the ticket was for 2:50. Oops, another mix-up. (Or was it planned?) I went in anyway to the showing that was already half over.

After it was over, I noticed that there was another showing of the movie—the one I should have gone into. So rather than wait a half hour for the next performance, I went into the showing that was playing and saw the middle. Then I went back to the other showing and saw the beginning. I think this backward method of viewing time travel films enhances the disorderly state of mind necessary to appreciate the story and suspend disbelief in time travel back and forth.

The scientists of the post-plague era are smart enough to do time travel, but limited in their choices of time travelers. They pick Bruce, a violent prisoner out of a kind of futuristic prison system that freshmen Republican Congressmen will probably design—pre-deja vu, that is—if it hasn't been designed (secretly) and built already.

Anyway, Willis is a wonderful, bleeding, suffering male hero. A messianic macho man who for no good reason, after being mocked, beaten, drugged and scorned, does his duty and is killed in order to save thankless mankind. A violent male, cooped up and hemmed in by society until it needs him, at which time he selflessly and willingly suffers the ultimate destiny and fails...or does he?

The despicable future scientists are smart enough to do time travel, but don't always hit the right time period. He gets sent to medieval England (off the bulls eye) and winds up in a history book. He also makes it to French trenches during World War I. He appears in the wrong year in Baltimore (which is even grungier than I remember it), and that screws everything up.

He tangles with the police and is sent to a mental institution where he meets Brad Pitt, the wacko son of a Nobel Prize-winning virologist, and inadvertently causes the catastrophe he is trying to ameliorate, or prevent—it is not clear what his job really is. You'd think these smart scientists would know that he was shot by the Philadelphia cops. Bruce even saw it himself when he was a boy!

Fortunately for the storyline, the psychiatrist at the mental institution who originally thought he was crazy starts to believe in him just when he thinks he is really insane after he kidnaps her. Of course everyone thinks she is crazy now.

Bruce doesn't come even close to having sex with Madeline Stowe, although he does menace and scare her enough to provide the basis of a good solid modern-day relationship a la Hollywood.

I really liked Brad Pitt as the wacko, Jeffrey, the Yippie-like animal rights activist, a twisted Jesus figure who instead of saving mankind, wipes it off the face of the earth. (A Republican judgment on do-gooders? He could have used market forces to accomplish his end.)

Sound interesting? Check it out—but check out the schedule first.