Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

Brazil (Original Director’s Cut)

Title: Brazil
Year: 1985
Director: Terry Gilliam
Starring Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Robert DeNiro, Katherine Helmond, Michael Palin
Rated: R

Reel Reviews Rating:

Brazil is one of those movies that are often highly praised by movie critics (and armchair critics) because of how artistically it was filmed, because of its message, and so on.

I am not one of those critics.

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Brazil is an homage to Orwell’s 1984. The setting is a futuristic society in which beurocracy, industry, and technology control people’s lives. Nothing gets done unless mountains of unnecessary paperwork is filled out first. This obviously however, doesn’t suit everyone’s taste. Law enforcement are on the lookout not only for terrorists, but for people who do their jobs without the proper paperwork and those who question the system too much.

The story begins when a critical error in paperwork processing leads to the arrest of the wrong man. This mixup is caught by lowly civil servant Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), who resolves to get it fixed. Meanwhile, Lowry has recurring dreams, envisioning himself as a sort of Icarus soaring through the clouds. In his dreams he keeps seeing a beautiful woman calling out to him. When he sees a woman in his real life who looks remarkably like his dream girl, Lowry becomes obsessed in tracking her down. This leads him to question, and even rebel against, the stringent beuracratic system he has been seemingly comfortable with all his life.

I didn’t really like Brazil. Yes, I understand that it’s supposed to be a social commentary, a satirical take on this society etc. I understand that it’s supposed to be kind of weird. Perhaps I didn’t like it because it was directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame, and I’ve never really found Monty Python films funny. I know it’s damn near sacrilegious to say something like that, but I never really “got” that sort of odd British humor.

One of the things that didn’t settle right with me about this movie was that it felt somewhat schizophrenic. One minute there were some really funny scenes, but the next minute it would be downright serious, with people dying. I kept thinking, “Ok- I thought this was supposed to be a comedy”. Another thing I didn’t like about the movie was the character of Sam Lowry. He actually started out ok, but he became downright irritating once he became obsessed with chasing his dream woman, breaking every rule in sight.

Monty Python fans wil definitely love Brazil, others will appreciate the movie for its satire or its artistic value, and some will have fun comparing it to 1984. Still, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. If you don’t get Monty Python-esque comedy, then this isn’t a movie for you.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention. There are two versions of Brazil: Gilliam’s original version with the unhappy ending, and the Hollywood, “Love Conquers All” version with happy ending. I suggest to watch the original version since it wraps up the whole movie better than the Hollywood version.

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December 29, 2005 - Posted by | Comedy, Satire, Sci-Fi, Social Commentary


  1. I’ve seen both versions and know exactlly what you mean though I must confess to being a huge fan of this film especially as an avid fan of all things Orwell, just wanted to tell anyone reading that if you are going to go out and get this film get the critereon DVD with 3 discs you get both versions of the film and the extras are well worth a watch to see the whole battle to get the film made

    Comment by taro | January 5, 2006 | Reply

  2. Thanks for your input Taro. Yes, there was apparently a huge fight between Gilliam and Sidney Sheinberg, who edited the film to create the Hollywood “Love Conquers All” version. Gilliam was really pissed off that they’d made so many changes to his film to the point of almost disowning it. I’d be pissed too if some idiot took my work and futzed with it to make it more “acceptable” to mainstream audiences.

    Comment by Toni | January 5, 2006 | Reply

  3. […] To me, V for Vendetta draws elements from The Phantom of the Opera, Fight Club, Brazil , and 1984. You have the relationship between a young girl and a strange, somewhat unhinged man in a mask (Phantom); using violence and anarchy to change society (Fight Club); and an innocent person hunted down by a totalitarian, absolutist government (Brazil and 1984). This film (and the graphic novel) takes those elements and blends them nicely in an intriguing story that has audiences cheering for the anti-hero. […]

    Pingback by No Face for Film » V for Vendetta | March 20, 2006 | Reply

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