Former 'Monty Python' animator Terry Gilliam directs this gritty sci-fi thriller. In the year 2035 the world has been decimated by a virus which originated back in 1996. Convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) is selected to travel back in time to trace the virus to its source. The first attempt at time travel lands Cole back in 1990, where he is diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed to a mental institution. Can he escape and get to the right year to prevent the virus' outbreak?
Inspired by Chris Marker's acclaimed short film La Jetée, 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 1990s, boosted by Gilliam's visual ingenuity and one of the finest performances of Willis's career. --Jeff Shannon
--This text refers to the DVD edition.