A study of madness and dreams, of death and re-birth, set in a world coming apart

Case study of cult classic Twelve Monkeys with an editor Mick Audsley. The film stars Bruce Willis as James Cole, a prisoner of the state in the year 2035 who can earn parole if he agrees to travel back in time and thwart a devastating plague. An American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam which gained two Oscar nominations.

Cole (Bruce Willis) is sent back in time to save the human race from a deadly virus that has forced mankind into dank underground communities in the future. Along his travels, he encounters a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) and a mental patient, brilliantly portrayed by Brad Pitt, who may hold the key to the mysterious rogue group, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, thought to be responsible for unleashing the killer disease. Believing he can obtain a pure virus sample in order to find a cure in the future, he is met with one riddle after another that puts him in a race with time.  

12 Monkeys is fierce and disturbing, with a plot that skillfully resists following any familiar course. The film's hero fears that he's half-crazy, and for two hours Mr. Gilliam artfully keeps his audience feeling the same way.
NY Times

The screenplay by Janet and David Peoples (Blade Runner, Unforgiven) takes off from Chris Marker's 1962 short, La Jetée, but soon spirals into more pressing millennial obsessions (insanity, chaos and ecological catastrophe). Like La Jetée, 12 Monkeys contains references to Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958).

"There's the see-saw between your dilemma of saying `Oh right, [Cole]'s bonkers, we're not believing him,' and `Oh no, he's not bonkers.' And this seesaw through the film is what we editorially have to manufacture correctly. So all the time, the carpet is being pulled away from under you. The minute you start to believe one set of information, then there's something which undoes it again. So the use of close-ups and extreme wide angle shots is really to do with shifting the balance inside and out of [Cole's] state of mind. Also, it's so nice to be dealing with something which is not an imitation of another film in any way. Often there's a terrific amount of weight pushing you in the direction of films which have already been made, which is always a constant problem for us in the cutting room, trying to make films that come around the corner and approach things from another viewpoint, and not from the limitations of a horror film, a mystery film, thriller, etc."

Mick Audsley

Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Screenplay by: David Peoples, Janet Peoples
Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer
Cinematography:  Roger Pratt
Music by: Paul Buckmaster
Edited by: Mick Audsley  

United States
129 minutes