12 Monkeys is a movie with considerable cinematic vision. A big chunk of movies, that get produced every year belongs to the sci-fi (Science fiction) genre. Over the years a good number of sci-fi movies have explored the post-apocalyptic future. My personal favourites have been Metropolis (1927), Blade Runner (1982), The Matrix (1999), Dark City (1998) and Children of Men (2006). One, relatively underrated, gem among the lot is 12 Monkeys directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe in lead roles. Inspired by a short a film La Jetée (1962) by Chris Marker, the movie released to critical acclaim. The movie follows a little twisted plot with an abrupt ending which we will analyze and explain the plot and themes of the film here.
The present year according to the movie is 2035. The humans have been forced to live underground because a virus, that got leaked back in 1996 and wiped out a large mass of human population, still exists on the surface. The scientists are trying to find the virus in its pure form, before it mutated, to develop a cure for it. For this they need someone to travel back to 1996 and find out the origin of the virus. They believe that the Army of the 12 Monkeys was behind the leak of the virus. The basis of this belief is a broken telephone voice message that vaguely mentions the 12 Monkeys.
The scientists choose Cole (Bruce Willis) to travel back in time and trace the virus. Cole is believed to have a strong mind and hence, perhaps, a better memory. In return Cole is offered pardon for a crime that he has committed.
The scientists do not expect Cole to go back in time and change the course of events. This is because the scientists believe that the past is unalterable and hence it is not possible to stop the outbreak of the virus. They just want to find out a cure for the virus. The scientists’ belief is based on the Novikov self-consistency principle according to which it is impossible to alter the past, as it would create a paradox which would nullify the change, although time travel may be physically and technically possible.