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The movie ends with the lead scientist from the future seating next to Dr. Peters on the plane. She introduces herself as "in insurance". Gilliam leaves it there -- as an open ending -- which allows the audience to speculate. What was she insuring?
The mission was for criminals to locate the cause of the virus. A scientist would then be sent back to retrieve a sample of the unmutated virus. Did the reference to her being in insurance mean that she was sent back to insure that Peters actually will disperse the virus?
The scientists are in charge in the future because of the virus. If they come up with a vaccine, their power is threatened. So why not send people on wild goose chases to pretend they're working on something and use it as a way to eliminate those who cause trouble? In other words, maybe they're happy with their place the future.
The scientists in the future already had a good idea where the virus came from. In one scene, when Cole is being interrogated in the future, look at the newspaper clippings on the wall. They show Dr. Goines. Why does Gilliam use those clippings in the background? Since the scientists were talking about finding the source of the virus at the time, a reasonable conclusion is that they knew that Goines was the source. Yet this essential fact is never given to Cole.
He's told about the 12 Monkeys, but the most likely source of the virus isn't even mentioned to him. With a plot as beautifully constructed as this one, that omission is a key one. They are sending Cole off chasing after the 12 Monkeys, when they seem to know that group wasn't the source of the virus.
Even if they believed the 12 Monkeys were involved, the source was still Goines laboratory which remains the key bit of information that the scientists should have given to Cole. Instead, we find Cole and others trying to locate the Army's headquarters. Why?
This is one of my favorite movies and can be watched closely many times. I always pick-up new subtle clues dropped by Gilliam.