"TWELVE MONKEYS": A SUMMARY [POSSIBLE SPOILERS]
by Hans ten Cate
Thursday, 5 October 1995

Here is a brief summary of the story. I must warn you, however, that possible plot spoilers are contained within. Read at your own risk! Click here to skip this article.

The title, "Twelve Monkeys" apparently refers to a riddle in the film (the actual nature of which is also still a riddle at this time). The film takes place in the year 2035. Bruce Willis plays a prisoner who lives underground with the few humans who have survived an apocolyptic virus which has rid the Earth of 5 billion people. It is unsafe to ever set foot on the surface again.

To win his freedom, Willis "volunteers" to travel back through time to the mid 1990s and to figure out how the virus was started or, perhaps, even prevent it from ever happening. Willis's other option is to obtain the virus in its pure (non-mutated) form so that the scientists of the future can attempt to create an antidote and perhaps one day return to the Earth's surface...

Things go wrong and instead of going to mid-1996, as originally intended (the virus is supposedly released December 1996), he ends up in the early 1990s.

His search begins for the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, the group supposedly responsible for releasing the killer virus. In his attempts, he gets detained in a mental institution where he meets, and later falls for, a psychiatrist (Madeleine Stowe). Willis also meets a strange patient (Brad Pitt), the "eccentric" son of a famous virus scientist, who attempts to help Willis escape.

Willis is suddenly whisked back to the mid 1990s where he reacquaints and then abducts his psychiatrist. In the film, Stowe's character has since written a book about people obsessed with the apocalypse. Pitt's character, too, has been busy. Since his release from the mental institution, he and a renegade bunch of animal activists have formed the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. They set about freeing animals from research labs and zoos in order to publically embarrass his father who, of course, uses animals in his virus research.

Stowe begins to believe that Willis's story is true and attempts to help him in his search. However, it turns out that Willis's leads are fruitless, and they are no closer to the truth than before. They attempt to flee from humanity, hoping to evade the virus altogether. It is then that the mystery of Twelve Monkeys and the real cause of the virus is revealed: it lies somewhere between the past and the future, between sanity and madness, between dreams and reality, between life and death itself. (Sound vague? Well, I didn't want to spoil everything!)