12 Monkeys: Collector's Edition (1995)
Featurette-Hamster Factor & Other Tales of 12 Monkeys (87:34)
Audio Commentary-Terry Gilliam (Director) & Chuck Roven (Producer)
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:20)
|Year Of Production||1995|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (93:06)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Terry Gilliam|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Well, did you really expect me to start this review any other way? In many ways, it is an apt way to start this review, for in many ways this is a very different Hollywood film.
First of all, it has Terry Gilliam at the helm and if there is one thing that he is not renowned for it is making Hollywood films. And that is for the simple reason that his vision is too far out there to be acceptable to and accessible enough for mainstream Hollywood. Which of course made him a perfect choice to helm 12 Monkeys, for the film did require someone with some sort of vision to be able to effectively realize the screenplay penned by David and Janet Peoples.
Secondly, this is no typical Hollywood linear story with a nice little progression from start to finish with everything all nice and neatly tied up. Indeed, the entire point of the film is to have a deliberately non-linear story that does not explain everything and has you thinking all the time about what is going on and where the heck the movie is going. It jumps between present (being the future) and the past (being the present), with some ethereal dreams thrown in for good measure. The result is something that really is not like any other film and is a film that does reward multiple viewings with renewed insights every time you watch it. Well, it is thus for me and this is a film that I can return to often and still enjoy immensely.
The broad story, like the broad strokes on a canvas, are relatively simple. The time is 2035 and the world has been devastated by a virus that has wiped out most of the human race and allowed the animals to become the dominant creatures on the planet. What human population remains lives underground in a very technological society. The scientists are working towards a cure for the virus and to that end send travellers into the past to seek out samples and information with that aim. James Cole (Bruce Willis) is one such time traveller - a "volunteer" whose performance will enable him to obtain a pardon for the crimes that have resulted in his incarceration. Being a very good observer, he gets a chance to go back to the year 1996 to seek out the source of the virus - a group known as The Army Of The 12 Monkeys. Unfortunately time travel is not an exact science and he ends up going back to the wrong year - 1990 - with some interesting consequences. He ends up in a psychiatric institution where he meets two pivotal people - his psychiatrist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and a fellow inmate Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt).
Pulled back to his present at an opportune time, Cole succeeds in getting the scientists to return him to the past (eventually in the correct year after another slight detour) to continue his task. In 1996 he again meets up with Kathryn and with her enforced help slowly works out the secret of the source of the virus and the workings of The Army Of The 12 Monkeys - we think. Really there is not much more that should be revealed here as this really is a film that compels you to work everything out for yourself. Any more information and the point of the film will be spoilt.
This is a wonderfully dense screenplay that has you wondering where things are going. The realization of the written words really needed someone with a distinctly different style and the choice of Terry Gilliam was pretty well inspired. After all, there is little doubt that most of his work has been distinctly different for much of his career (Brazil anyone?, just to ignore Monty Python for a change). The team he assembled worked minor miracles with the budget they had to work with and the vision realized on the screen has rarely been bettered by people with five times the money that this film was made with.
The style of the film is totally different to just about anything else that has come out in the past ten years. However, even that style was enormously aided by the performances of the three lead actors. Bruce Willis is slowly but surely getting some recognition for his acting abilities as people slowly get past the all-action Die Hard-type characters he is usually associated with. This really is a terrifically vulnerable performance from Bruce Willis and it is the core of the film in many ways. Up until the time of the film being made, this was his best work and still remains as a highlight of his career. However, he is very effectively balanced by the terrific Madeleine Stowe in another distinctive acting performance. I have said before that she does not do many films but what she does do is usually highlighted by quality and that is precisely what we get here. She seems to have a knack for hitting the right sort of mood and feeling here and this really is great stuff from her. The main cast is rounded out by the then-emerging man-of-the-moment in Brad Pitt. The timing of his signing to the film was rather fortuitous I guess, but this really is a fine performance from him as the mental patient. Whilst he certainly has gone onto bigger and better things, this is still one of his best performances and garnered him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
For me, this really is a terrific film and a film that I can return to often and enjoy. I do know that this is not an opinion that sits well with everyone but the fact that this was something of a box office success is indicative that sometimes the critics don't know what they are talking about. Well worth seeking out as it is as close to mainstream as Terry Gilliam is likely to get and there are some terrific performances here that are the antidote to the endless parade of acting-by-the-numbers performances that we see so much of nowadays.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
The Region 1 transfer was blessed with a wonderfully detailed and quite sharp transfer that seemed to overcome the fact that significant chunks of the film were filmed at night or in dark places and therefore could be expected to show problems in these areas. Well, the inherently superior PAL formatting has taken those basics and just tweaked them a bit more to elevate this transfer to an even higher standard. This really is a great-looking transfer, with oodles of definition which is so essential for a film that is quite dense at times. There is certainly little here to detract from the viewing experience. There are no real lapses in the consistency of the detail, other than those where it was intended, and shadow detail is consistently of a high standard throughout the film, again other than where it was intended to be a little restrained. Clarity is excellent throughout as well, although there is just a slightly grainy look to the film at times that I would suspect is an intended look. There is no evidence of any significant low level noise issues here.
As you can appreciate for a film predominantly set in an underground future and a decaying past, this is not exactly going to have the brightest feel about it as far as colours go. There is certainly nothing in the film that tends towards bright, primary colours as this would not be consistent with the intent of the film. What we do have is a broad palette of darker colours that tend towards the browns, greys and greens that is beautifully evocative of the feel of a decaying society. The result is not an especially vibrant looking transfer but it is certainly an exceptionally believable result. When the chance does come along, though, for some nice, rich, vibrant colours, there are taken and this just highlights how good the colours are (just check out the gorgeous wood tones at the mansion of Professor Goines for a very good example). Black tones are not absolute, but that again is an intended feel to the film in my view. There are no oversaturation problems at all, and colour bleed did not seem to be an issue at all.
There are no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. I don't recall seeing any film-to-video artefacts at all, so if there are any present they are obviously not at all distracting to the film. There were a few film artefacts floating around in the source material, but really not that bad and not distracting to the film.
This is an RSDL formatted DVD, and the layer change occurs mid-scene at 93:06. Whilst it does occur mid-scene, during a camera shot on Bruce Willis' face and between any dialogue, it is pretty well-handled and is not really that noticeable unless you are watching your DVD player display like a hawk or listening to the commentary (there is a distinct gap in the flow there).
The English soundtracks are very good and the dialogue comes up very well in both and is clear and easy to understand. There is no problem with audio sync in the transfer at all.
The original music score comes from Paul Buckmaster and a beauty it is too. The theme here is terrific and, as mentioned in the audio commentary, the incidental music is used in a contrary manner to the mood that is being created by the film. Thus, where the romantic elements of the story were being pushed, we do not get the usual schmaltzy, syrupy romantic style of music but something a little more dissonant. My one great regret on both the Region 1 DVD and this effort is the fact that space could not be found for an isolated music score - I think that would be very interesting to hear.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a gem - even though this really is a dialogue-based film without any great flashy audio demonstration pieces. The impressive thing about the soundtrack is the use of the channels for the fellow inmate's voice during the cell scene in particular. It moves mightily impressively between the front and rear surround channels (both left and right) as Cole tries to work out where the voice is coming from. This is the sort of impressive surround channel use that really makes
you wish that more sound engineers actually took the trouble to understand how to use sound. Overall, there is nothing wrong with the soundtrack here at all.
There is not a heck of a lot of use of the bass channel, but that is a reflection of the film itself and not of any inherent problem with the mastering. The overall soundscape is very believable throughout the film thanks to the excellent use of the surround channels. Whilst most would not see this as an audio demonstration per se, this surely is the quality of stuff that I would use to demonstrate what can be done with sound.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The other Region 1 DVD is a barebones effort with a DTS soundtrack in place of the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. If your bent is towards excellence in sound and do not care for extras, then this is probably the choice for you. From what I can gather the DTS soundtrack is excellent, but for me the loss of the extras package does not compensate for the additional excellence in the soundtrack - especially considering that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is very good anyway.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|