Set in the year 2035, a plague has wiped out much of the human race and they are forced to live deep underground. Scientists of the era send criminals back in time, using imperfect time machine technology, to try to discover the origins of the virus so they can bring a sample back to the future to find a cure, and take back the planet. Bruce Willis plays Cole, who is sent back to find out who the 12 Monkeys are, which are believed to be a terrorist group responsible for the unleashing the virus. Unfortunately, he sent back to wrong time and finds himself in a mental institution. While there he is treated by a psychiatrist played by Madeline Stowe and runs into Brad Pitt - a wacky mental patient. It's hard to tell much more about the plot without giving the movie away, but these two characters play a vital role in the plot.
The director does an excellent job with the time travel elements of the story, an aspect that become quickly inconsistent and ruinous to a movie of this nature without careful attention to detail. The acting is also superb. I would highly recommend the movie.
Also note, the "Making Of" feature on the DVD is one of the few that I actually enjoyed and found quite interesting.
The acting in 12 MONKEYS is top-notch, especially the work of the three principals. As the time-traveling antihero, Bruce Willis delivers one of his greatest performances and is touchingly emotive as his character tries to accomplish his task while also retaining his health and sanity. Playing a psychiatrist who eventually becomes Willis' love interest, the pretty Madeleine Stowe is convincingly as strong and intense or as vulnerable as the role demands. And in his hilarious portrayal of a demented anarchist who also happens to be the son of a famous virologist, Brad Pitt fervently chews the scenery and nearly upstages his more experienced costars.
Willis' struggle with the psychological aporia and culture shock of traveling backwards in time while he also pieces together a complicated but vital puzzle makes for a literate yet gripping science-fiction thriller that keeps viewers guessing right up to the final scene. Yes, the plot is complicated and labyrinthine, but it all ultimately comes together in an intense and scintillating epiphany. Ardent sci-fi fans will especially enjoy the final payoff, but even filmgoers not normally into the genre will find 12 MONKEYS to be an enjoyable flick.
The standard DVD from Universal offers a nearly pristine digital transfer of the film in anamorphic widescreen at the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Also included are cool bonus goodies like a feature commentary with director Gilliam and producer Chuck Roven, a featurette made during the film's production, the original theatrical trailer, and more. Universal also offers 12 MONKEYS on a special DVD that offers DTS Dolby sound, but apparently the better sound comes at the cost of bonus features.
In short, 12 MONKEYS is a must-have for sci-fi fans, but all lovers of great cinema should be pleased to have this film in their DVD collections.