DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
I didn't really intend to, but after watching La Jetee yesterday I felt the need to watch the film it inspired so much again. And watching it with the powerful imagery of La jetee fresh in the back of my mind, I think Gilliam's film just possibly got a bit better. Even though I didn't think that possible.
I feel 12 Monkeys is one of the greatest Science Fiction films ever made and it certainly ranks among Gilliam's very best. It is a film that creates a perfect mixture of visual flair, intrigue, drama and Sci-Fi conceit. It simply excels on all levels a film should work on.
The first viewing of this film is arguably the best as the unfolding of the plot, driven by the at first jumbled and gradually evolving narrative, is an absolute marvel to behold. This approaches levels of perfection, not only in how it gets from A to B (and back again), but also in its host of characters with a protagonist whose bizarre plight Gilliam and Willis manage to make our own with apparent ease. There is more to it than a simple time travel story, it has a deeper layer of character development and manages to create a sense of nostalgia and longing in Willis' and Stowe's characters that resonates throughout and makes everything that happens so much more powerful.
The way Gilliam visualises the future is amazing and feels like the doped up, bizarre version of the photographs in La Jetee. The strangeness never feels extremely contrasted to Willis' past, everything the entire time feels off. Whether it's because of the grimness of the insane asylum or the bizarre angles and strange fluidity of Gilliam's camera work, there is always a disjointed feel, something that adds purpose to the heart of the story.
The performances are all great, but Willis and Pitt really bring their very best to the table. Willis shows nuance and a wide range in what he does here and Pitt manages to instill a cool and collected intelligence underneath all the ticks and twitches. Very impressive indeed.
Plot, direction, cast; all amalgamated to a piece of cinematic perfection, sparked into existence by a series of photographs telling a beautiful story. It doesn't really get much better than this.