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United Kingdom 1985
Directed by
Terry Gilliam
142 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars


Terry Gilliam’s finest moment in film is a wonderfully-executed dystopic retro-futuristic fantasy of a society where an Orwellian bureaucracy has taken over every aspect of life. Jonathan Pryce plays Sam Lowry, a Walter Mitty-ish minor bureaucrat who daydreams of being a knight in shining armour and saving a beautiful woman from her evil captors. One day whilst trying to rectify a wrongful arrest he meets the woman (Kim Greist, an actress of whom little was subsequently heard) and fantasy becomes reality…or vice versa. 

Gilliam’s films often tend to get lost in a welter of hyperactivity but here if the pace is bordering on the frenetic at times and Gilliam over-uses a quiet-loud-quiet pattern for the narrative (recalling his work for  the Monty Python crew, for the most part its inventiveness is sufficient to carry the day.  Perhaps having Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown (who appears as Harvey Lime, the clerk with whom Sam, literally, shares a desk) helped, for it is an often perceptive, if occasionally gruesome, film that is not afraid of the dark side and which deserves to take its place amongst the best of cinematic envisionings of a dystopian future from Metropolis (1927) to Blade Runner (1982). 

Brazil is a brilliant production, drawing liberally from 1930s and '40s film noir aesthetics to create its future world. It also features some engaging cameos, including Robert De Niro as Harry Tuttle, a guerrilla heating engineer and Jim Broadbent as a high society plastic surgeon, along with substantial contributions from Ian Holm, Michael Palin and Bob Hoskins.




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