In the year 2035, convict James Cole (Bruce Willis) reluctantly volunteers to be sent back in time to discover the origin of a deadly virus that wiped out nearly all of the earth's population and forced the survivors into underground communities. But when Cole is mistakenly sent to 1990 instead Show more... of 1996, he's arrested and locked up in a mental hospital. There he meets psychiatrist Dr. Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe), and patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt), the son of a famous virus expert, who may hold the key to the mysterious rogue group, the Army of the 12 Monkeys, thought to be responsible for unleashing the killer disease.
Jonathan Rosenbaum While all of Gilliam's movies are worth seeing, there's a fair amount of his designer grimness here mixed in with the cabaret comedy.
Variety Staff Neither as visually compelling as Brazil nor as emotionally gripping as The Fisher King.
Geoff Andrew Gilliam gives the material a lunatic poetry of his own, but remains impervious to the requirements of narrative pacing.
Peter Travers Bruce Willis, in an eruptive performance of startling emotional intensity, stars as Cole, a prisoner tagged for an experiment that may get him killed.
Desson Thomson Willis and Pitts's performances, Gilliam's atmospherics and an exhilarating momentum easily outweigh such trifling flaws.
John Hartl In some ways, 12 Monkeys is the end-of-the-world thriller that Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days wanted to be.
Scott Rosenberg What's remarkable about 12 Monkeys is that, despite its decade-hopping abandon, the film makes a chilling kind of narrative sense.
Richard Corliss In its frantic mix of chaos, carnage and zoo animals, 12 Monkeys is Jumanji for adults.
Rita Kempley A densely plotted, visually dynamic post-apocalyptic thriller.
Sean Means Willis gives a quietly intense performance, looking like he's trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle in his head.
Tom Keogh This film hits a nerve a lot more effectively than either the director's Brazil or The Fisher King.
Keith Simanton At one point Cole says that viewing the past is like watching a good movie, 'Every time you see it it's different, because you're different.' 12 Monkeys is a film that will do that, change as you change.