Brazil (1985)
Brazil (1985)

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy Running Time: 2 hrs. 12 min.

Release Date: December 18th, 1985 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Terry Gilliam Actors: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Kim Greist, Jim Broadbent




omewhere in the 20th century, in a dystopian future, acts of explosive terrorism lash out at the oppressive “Big Brother” government.  An automated Central Services computer system runs the day-to-day conducts of the city, substituting for human communications with citizens. The Ministry of Information is conducting certain inquiries on a mischievous fellow named Tuttle (Robert De Niro); due to a literal bug jamming up the printing systems, a typo is made, resulting in the arrest of poor Mr. Buttle. “That is your receipt for your husband,” states a serviceman to a frantic wife, as Buttle is wrapped up in a strait jacket with a metal clasp enveloping a sack over his head, and whisked away by machinegun-armed soldiers (a frightening acquisition and subsequent interrogation for which he’s unapologetically billed).

Meanwhile, at the Department of Records, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) identifies the error with the wrongful arrest, but conveniently ignores a solution, since it was the fault of the Information Retrieval division. As he muses over the unlikelihood of ever rising above the monotonous deskwork in the administrative district, his boss Mr. Kurtzmann (Ian Holm), an outwardly intimidating man who is internally capable only of taking orders from his subordinates, informs Sam that he’s been promoted to Information Retrieval. This promotion is conjecturably from Sam’s mother’s (Katherine Helmond) vast influential connections.

Additionally, there’s a rebellion at work, as there always is in overwhelmingly despotic or totalitarian scenarios, along with an epic romance – the dreaming and longing for a mystery woman, Jill Layton (Kim Griest), who arrives and disappears periodically to tantalize the hero and design a quest for his undertaking. The entire project is a stunningly visionary work, featuring obvious parallels and borrowings from the works of Orwell, along with goofy little musical tunes to further satirize the ludicrousness of the environment (even set during Christmastime). It presents the absolute condemnation of countless societal factions and components, governmental quandaries (such as the ineffectual Information Adjustments with its inundation of forms, stamps, lines, procedures, and paperwork), and the utter failure of almost all technology. This is in addition to the examination of the deficiencies of communication, crushing control of government and the helpless lack of control for civilians, and employees clearly incapable of their positions. Poignant dream sequences of paradise being devoured by industrialism also clarify the intrusion of technological enterprise.

Further lampooning assaults take place on the distortion of humanity through visual exaggerations. Included are costumes that, although intended to be futuristic, look like something out of the ‘20s (save for eccentric spoofs of fashion); cosmetic surgery, and horrific complications upon complications; food, served up in colorful globs with pictures of what it’s supposed to taste like accompanying the meal; vehicles, some of which are impractically gargantuan while others appear ridiculously miniscule; and set designs, with massively invasive, protruding ductwork spiraling through the ceilings, while masses of wires and tubing droop over every room of rundown apartments. Odd camera angles and deliriously spirited cinematography distort imagery, along with computer console screens that contort faces like carnival mirrors, and even movement, with certain scenes playing out like a cartoon.

The sarcastic, sardonic dialogue is unbelievably clever, with contrary conversations bursting with mockery; the editing features splendidly contradictory cuts from scene to scene and constant, brilliant juxtapositions; and triumphant orchestral music plays upon the melody of Ary Barroso’s lively, peppy song “Brazil,” which becomes ironic symbolism for the lighthearted approach to dark themes. Hilariously comedic science-fiction noir, “Brazil” is perhaps best described as the funny version of “1984” meets “Blade Runner.” It’s furthermore tinged with destructive adventure, bold fantasy, and a fantastically powerful conclusion, and features an elite cast of masterful character actors set against an uproarious satire of bureaucracy, technology, society, and humanity that proves to be one of the greatest movies of all time, sci-fi or otherwise.

– Mike Massie

  • 10/10