The year is 2035 and an unknown virus has wiped out most of humanity. The few survivors live in a grim subterranean city beneath Philadelphia.
Haunted by a vision from the past, convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) is “volunteered” to travel back in time to 1996 to obtain a sample of the virus and find out more about a terrorist organisation called The Army of the 12 Monkeys, which was somehow involved with the outbreak of the epidemic.
He is first mistakenly sent back to 1990, where he ends up in a psychiatric ward and meets Dr Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and the crazy son of a virologist named Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), a full-time schizophrenic and part-time animal rights activist.
After being brought back to 2035, he is sent off again, first arriving in WWI, before finally reaching 1996, where he will have to find out if Goines and his organisation are behind the outbreak of the virus.
Inspired by Chris Marker’s acclaimed 1962 short film La Jetée, this labyrinthine sci-fi thriller was penned by the co-writer of Blade Runner (1982), David Webb Peoples, and his wife, Janet.
Yet it’s very much the work of Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam, who imposes his own pseudo-poetic vision onto a world that is doomed to viral annihilation unless Willis can prevent the disaster.
Whilst falling short when compared to its brilliant source material, 12 Monkeys is a zany and fun sci-fi flick that seems to be bursting at the seams but ultimately still manages to keep things together.
The film received two Academy Award nominations, including one for Brad Pitt as Best Supporting Actor. And whilst he did not win it, he managed to take home the same prize in the same category at the Golden Globes that year.
Dr Kathryn Railly
Irma St Paule
Louie / Raspy Voice