Stars: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer, Simon Jones. Written by David Peoples & Janet Peoples. Directed by Terry Gilliam. Rated R for violence, profanity.

It never fails. After I set into stone my list of top movies, along comes a January release that technically belongs to the previous year and which deserves to make the list. I'll even go one further: although I don't normally rank my top ten, "12 Monkeys" is easily the best film of 1995.

In the year 1996, a deadly virus is released which kills 99% of the world's human population. In 2035, a prisoner named Cole (Bruce Willis) gets a chance to save the world by returning to the past to find the "Army of the 12 Monkeys", the group believed to have introduced the virus. The leader of this group, Jeffrey (Brad Pitt), previously met Cole when both were inmates at a mental institution. Their psychiatrist, Kathryn (Madeleine Stowe), struggles to believe Cole when he claims to be from the future, but doesn't accept his story until he returns five years later. Will they be able to stop what seems to be the inevitable extermination of mankind?

"12 Monkeys" is nothing short of brilliant and mesmerizing. It is a clever story, cleverly directed by Terry Gilliam, the creator "Brazil" and "The Fisher King". Here's hoping 1996 can produce a film this extraordinary, but do so in a timely fashion.

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