A lone time traveler from the year 2035 must solve a riddle that may save his people...but it may also take him to the brink of madness. Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt star in this brilliant sci-fi masterpiece from Terry Gilliam, the acclaimed director of The Fisher King. After the world's population is devastated by a killer virus, survivors must live in dank underground communities. Cole (Willis) "volunteers" to travel into the past to obtain a pure virus sample, thereby helping scientists develop a cure. Along the way, he crosses paths with a beautiful psychiatrist (Stowe) and a one-card-short-of-a-full-deck mental patient (Pitt). But the race is on, as Cole searches for The Army of the 12 Monkeys, a radical group linked to the deadly disease. With unforgettable performances and imaginative special effects, 12 Monkeys is a modern-day classic laced with Gilliam's trademark wit and dazzling visual style.
Inspired by Chris Marker's acclaimed short film La Jetée
(which is included on the DVD Short 2: Dreams
), 12 Monkeys
combines intricate, intelligent storytelling with the uniquely imaginative vision of director Terry Gilliam. The story opens in the wintry wasteland of the year 2035, where a virulent plague has forced humans to live in a squalid, oppressively regimented underground. Bruce Willis plays a societal outcast who is given the opportunity to erase his criminal record by "volunteering" to time-travel into the past to obtain a pure sample of the deadly virus that will help future scientists to develop a cure. But in bouncing from 1918 to the early and mid-1990s, he undergoes an ordeal that forces him to question his own perceptions of reality. Caught between the dangers of the past and the devastation of the future, he encounters a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe) who is initially convinced he's insane, and a wacky mental patient (Brad Pitt in a twitchy Oscar-nominated role) with links to a radical group that may have unleashed the deadly virus. Equal parts mystery, tragedy, psychological thriller, and apocalyptic drama, 12 Monkeys
ranks as one of the best science fiction films of the '90s, boosted by Gilliam's visual ingenuity and one of the finest performances of Willis's career. --Jeff Shannon