12 Monkeys, also known as Twelve Monkeys, is a 1995 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam, inspired by Chris Marker's 1962 short film La Jetée, and starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt, with Christopher Plummer and David Morse in supporting roles. After Universal Studios acquired the rights to remake La Jetée as a full-length film, David and Janet Peoples were hired to write the script.
Under Gilliam's direction, Universal granted the filmmakers a $29.5 million budget, and filming lasted from February to May 1995. The film was shot mostly in Philadelphia and Baltimore, where the story was set.
The film was released to critical praise and grossed $168 million worldwide. Pitt was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and won a Golden Globe for his performance. The film also won and was nominated for various categories at the Saturn Awards.
A deadly virus released in 1996 wipes out almost all of humanity, forcing remaining survivors to live underground. A group known as the Army of the Twelve Monkeys is believed to be behind the release of the virus. In 2035, James Cole is a prisoner living in a subterranean compound beneath the ruins of Philadelphia. Cole is selected for a mission, where he is trained and sent back in time to locate the original virus in order to help scientists develop a cure. Meanwhile, Cole is troubled by recurring dreams involving a foot chase and an airport shooting.
Cole arrives in Baltimore in 1990, not 1996 as planned. He is arrested, then hospitalized in a mental hospital on the diagnosis of Dr. Kathryn Railly. There he encounters Jeffrey Goines, a mental patient with fanatical views. Cole is interviewed by a panel of doctors, and he tries to explain that the virus outbreak has already happened, and nobody can change it. After an escape attempt, Cole is sedated and locked in a cell, but he disappears moments later, and wakes up back in his own time. Cole is interrogated by the scientists, who play a distorted voicemail message which asserts the association of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys with the virus. He is also shown photos of numerous people suspected of being involved, including Goines. The scientists offer Cole a second chance to complete his mission and send him back in time. He arrives at a battlefield of World War I where he is shot in the leg, and then he is suddenly transported to 1996.
In 1996, Railly gives a lecture about the Cassandra complex to a group of scientists. At the post-lecture book signing, Dr. Peters points out to Railly that apocalypse alarmists represent the sane vision, while humanity's gradual destruction of the environment is the real lunacy. Cole arrives at the venue after seeing flyers publicizing it, and when Railly departs, he kidnaps her and forces her to take him to Philadelphia. They learn that Goines is the founder of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, and set out in search of him. When they confront him, however, Goines denies any involvement with the group and says that in 1990 Cole originated the idea of wiping out humanity with a virus stolen from Goines' virologist father.
Cole convinces himself that he is insane, but after another trip back and forth in time Railly confronts him with evidence of his time travel. They decide to spend their remaining time together in the Florida Keys before the onset of the plague. On their way to the airport, they learn that the Army of the Twelve Monkeys was not the source of the epidemic; the group's major act of protest is releasing animals from a zoo and placing Goines' father in an animal cage.
At the airport, Cole leaves a last message telling the scientists that in following the Army of the Twelve Monkeys they are on the wrong track, and that he will not return. He is soon confronted by Jose, an acquaintance from his own time, who gives Cole a handgun and ambiguously instructs him to follow orders. At the same time, Railly spots Dr. Peters, and recognizes him from a newspaper photograph as an assistant at Goines' father's virology lab. Peters is about to embark on a tour of several cities that match the locations and sequence of the viral outbreaks.
Cole forces his way through a security checkpoint in pursuit of Peters. After drawing the gun he was given, Cole is fatally shot by police. As Cole lies dying in Railly's arms, Railly makes eye contact with a small boy—the young James Cole witnessing the scene of his own death, which will replay in his dreams for years to come. Peters, aboard the plane with the virus, sits down next to Jones, one of the scientists from the future.
- Bruce Willis as James Cole
- Joseph Melito as young James Cole
- Madeleine Stowe as Kathryn Railly
- Brad Pitt as Jeffrey Goines
- Christopher Plummer as Dr. Goines
- David Morse as Dr. Peters
- Jon Seda as Jose
- Christopher Meloni as Lt. Halperin
- Frank Gorshin as Dr. Fletcher
- Vernon Campbell as Tiny
- Lisa Gay Hamilton as Teddy
- Bob Adrian as Geologist
- Simon Jones as Zoologist
- Carol Florence as Astrophysicist/Jones
- Bill Raymond as Microbiologist
- Annie Golden as Woman Cabbie
- Thomas Roy as a street preacher
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