Jesus, does Terry Gilliam make any happy SF movies? Watching this movie play out, I was reminded of his other movie, Brazil, in so many ways it's not funny. It's very cyberpunk, in the sense that everything seems very grimy and worn (admittedly for good reason) and the future is pretty damn grim down on the level where the regular guys are. James Cole (played most excellently by Bruce Willis, the Charlton Heston of our generation) gets jerked back and forth between his miserable, subterranean future and Philadelphia in the 1990s as his handlers set him on the trail of the Army of the 12 Monkeys, a group believed to have started the biowar apocalypse that's doomed humanity to "living like worms," in Cole's bitter words.
Unfortunately for Cole, his first time shot drops him six years too early, and he winds up confined to a mental hospital as a madman. From that point on, reality and madness and Cole's own desires get really twisted up until it gets a little hard to tell whether Cole is in fact delusional or just...damaged. Brad Pitt plays a role very similar to his Tyler Durden in Fight Club, while Madeleine Stowe's portrayal of Dr. Railly is outstanding. So. Great script, great acting, very good movie - just godawful depressing.