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12 Monkeys

4.3 out of 5 stars 740 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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.

Amazon.com

Inspired by Chris Marker's acclaimed short film LaJetée (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

Product Details

  • Actors: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe, Christopher Plummer, Frank Gorshin
  • Directors: Terry Gilliam
  • Writers: David Peoples, Janet Peoples
  • Producers: Charles Roven
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), English (DTS 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    R
    Restricted
  • Studio: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 16, 1999
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (740 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0783230702
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,757 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "12 Monkeys" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
When I saw "12 Monkeys" in the theaters, I thought to myself, "This is one of the greatest films of the past ten years." Despite working with a script written by others and under some stringent studio restrictions, Terry Gilliam more than managed to infuse the story with his trademark approach to movie-making.
I had some reservations going in about the choice of Brad Pitt to play the role of a mentally unbalanced eco-terroist, but Pitt did a marvelous job and really made the character his own. (Viewers who like Pitt in "12 Monkeys" would probably do well to check out his performance in "Fight Club". Tyler Durden is what Jeffery Goins could be if he were less manic.) Bruce Willis and Madeline Stowe also turn in terrific performances, especially Willis for whom this was one of his first non-action films. Fans of the old "Batman" TV show will be amused to see Frank Gorshin (the Riddler) as the chief psychiatrist at the mental institution were much of the early part of the film takes place. Christopher Plummer is not given much screen time, but he does an excellent job with what little he has.
As for the story itself, even though many people try to claim that it is about the line between sanity and madness(in the vein of Gilliam's "The Fisher King"), I just do not see it as such. I never doubted Cole's sanity, the future world was too real to make me think that it was a figment of Cole's imagination. And if one did have that impression at first, there was too much revealed early in the film to sustain that belief.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Good Science Fiction (weather a book, a movie, tv, whatever) has the power to make us look at ourselves as a society. The events in this movie metaphorically mimic events in our everyday lives. Even though we have not yet discovered time travel, all of the other events in this movie could happen, which is absolutely frightening. This is a dark movie, not for everyone, which has a deep high-minded script and plot (it may take a few watchings to fully understand this one.) The cinematography, directing, and acting are wonderful. Bruce Willis proves that he can do other movies besides his normal action type. He also proved it later in The 6th Sense, but I think this is one of his best performences. As for Brad Pitt, it is his best performance. It's so real that by the end, you'll think he's crazy.
Another important thing to note is to buy the DVD, but not the DTS one. The non-DTS version has an insightful long documentary on the making of the film, the DTS version does not have this. Plus the Dolby Digital sound is excellent in itself.
Most Highly Reccomended.
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Format: DVD
12 Monkeys is a convoluted tale of time travel, insanity, apocalypse, and who-done-it, with some romance thrown in. What I enjoyed most about it was the twisting and ambiguous path it followed, which was fresh and well thought out, to a point.

Bruce Willis plays Cole, a prisoner in a post-apocalyptic future recruited to do some dangerous time-travel work in the past for a group of very odd scientists. The goal of the work only becomes apparent later, and by then there is confusion about whether Cole is really on the mission he thinks he is or is just deluded. Brad Pitt has a major supporting role hamming it up as another who may or may not be insane.

Ultimately, while I don't think the film does full justice to its premises and possibilities, it does well enough to be entertaining and thought provoking. Director Terry Gilliam's surrealism adds much. The acting is very good on the whole, itself rather surreal in some of the supporting roles. There is some violence showing how disturbed Willis's character is, not bad for an R-rated movie. It's definitely worth seeing to judge for yourself what it's really about.

I want to comment on the things you think about after the film is over, to see how well it holds up. I'll have to go into details you may not want to know about if you haven't seen the film yet, thus the spoiler alert. If you'd like to know what my general conclusions are, without any spoilers, just skip to the last couple paragraphs headed "In Sum."

*SPOILER ALERT*

Madness

There are many points designed to suggest that parts of the film are delusions, but they're balanced by points seeming to show the opposite. There is the over-the-top strangeness of the future (the video ball, serenading scientists, etc.
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Format: DVD
12 Monkeys has an unusual pedigree. It was inspired by Chris Marker's brilliant short film Le Jete; written by David Peeples and his spouse (co-screenwriter of Blade Runner, writer of The Unforgiven and Solider); stars Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt and Madeline Stowe and directed by Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. It was also released by the very same studio that tried to butcher his masterpiece Brazil during the 80's. Who'd have thunk?
The plot is fairly straight forward for a Gilliam directed film: Bruce Willis is a convict sent back in time to find information on a deadly virus that destroys much of humanity. The survivors have to move underground (somewhat like in The Time Machine).This virus also insinuates itself into the environment making it impossible for humanity to return to the surface. Willis is to report whatever he finds out before returning home. For doing all this he'll receive a pardon. They want to find information on the 12 Monkeys the terrorist group that took responsibility for the attack and prevent it from occurring.
Willis meets a therapist played by Madeline Stowe when he's taken to a mental institution in our world. It's clear that he's disturbed but is that due to the travel through time? Did his fragmented mind make up the entire story? Stowe has to deal with all of this when she is kidnapped later in the film. Willis has fallen in love with her and tries to convince her his tale is true. Now they're on the run from the police and must find out who is behind the 12 Monkeys and where they have the virus.
The performances are sharp. Willis is particularly good at playing the sad sack time traveler condemned to wonder if he is insane or truly on a hero's mission.
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