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United Kingdom 1985
Directed by
Terry Gilliam
142 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4.5 stars


Terry Gilliam’s finest moment 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 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, the balance between story and execution is perfect.  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 deserves to take it place amongst the best of cinematic envisionings of a dystopic future from Metropolis to THX-118 to BladerunnerBrazil is a brilliant production, full of visual delights and marvellously drawing on 1930s and 40s film aesthetics to create its future world. It also features some brilliant cameos, including Robert De Niro as Harry Tuttle, a guerrilla heating engineer and Jim Broadbent as a high society plastic surgeon, not to mention Ian Holm and Bob Hoskins.




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