12 Monkeys (Blu-ray)

Sent back in time to save the human race, James Cole (Bruce Willis) needs to find the source of a deadly virus so that scientists from his time can create a cure. While in the past, Cole encounters psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and mental patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), who may be the key player in the Army of the 12 Monkeys, a terrorist group thought to be responsible for releasing the virus. Questioning his own sanity, Cole must meld his dreams and realities to solve the puzzle in order to save the human race.

12 Monkeys is a film that has grown on me with repeat viewings. Director Terry Gilliam doesn't dumb-down the story for the audience's sake and expects its full attention to the details in order to solve the mystery along with James Cole. The performances by the three main characters are outstanding, but I think Pitt steals virtually every scene he's in with his bizarre antics.

Having seen this film in theaters in 1995 and multiple times on DVD and HD DVD, I realize it isn't made for a dazzling HD presentation because of the photographic style Gilliam chose. The VC-1 1080p image is very soft due to heavy filtering during filming, which shows up especially in longer shots. The futuristic world is dark and depressing, but the 1990s sequences look a little better with brighter colors. Blacks are somewhat crushed, shadows are obscured, and edge enhancement rears its ugly head all too often.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack is an improvement over the Dolby Digital Plus track found on the HD DVD. The front channels have better separation and improved bass response. Dialog is rich and clear, and when Cole is hearing voices, the surround speakers come to life with plenty of discrete effects providing a glimpse of the chaos in his cranium. While not as dynamic as a new release, this catalog presentation is commendable.

Ported over from the HD DVD release are identical supplements that aren't easily dismissed. Fans will definitely want to watch "The Master Factor and Other Tales of 12 Monkeys"—its 87-minute look behind the scenes goes above and beyond the usual EPK (Electronic Press Kit) featurette. There's also a feature commentary from director Terry Gilliam and producer Charles Roven, the theatrical trailer, concept art, and production photos along with BD-Live access.

The presentation isn't anything to write home about, but the movie itself is outstanding. Brad Pitt delivers one of his most defining performances as a mental patient and earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination, although he lost the golden statuette to Kevin Spacey. Recommended for fans.

Release Date: July 28, 2009
Studio: Universal

Movie: 9/10
Picture: 5/10
Sound: 8/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics