Review: ‘Brazil’

Brazil offers a chillingly hilarious vision of the near-future, set 'somewhere in the 20th Century.'

Brazil offers a chillingly hilarious vision of the near-future, set ‘somewhere in the 20th Century.’

Director Terry Gilliam reportedly wanted to call the film 1984 1/2. As in Orwell’s classic, society is monitored by an insidious, tentacular ministry, and the film’s protagonist, a diligent but unambitious civil servant, Sam Lowry – played with vibrant comic imagination by Jonathan Pryce – becomes a victim of his own romantic delusions, and is crushed by a system he had never before thought of questioning.

He sees himself as a winged super-hero, part-Icarus, part-Siegfried, soaring lyrically through the clouds to the tune of ‘Brazil’, the old Xavier Cugat favorite, which as the film’s ironic musical leitmotif, recurs in numerous mock variations.

Robert De Niro shows delightful comic flair in a small, but succulent characterization of a proletariat superhero, who disposes of some obnoxious rival repairmen in a disgustingly original manner, but meets a most bizarre end in the film’s nightmare climax.

Gilliam has assembled a brilliant supporting cast of character actors, notably Ian Holm, as the edgy, paranoid ministry department chief hopelessly dependent on Pryce to untie bureaucratic knots.

1985: Nominations: Best Original Screenplay, Art Direction




Embassy. Director Terry Gilliam; Producer Arnon Milchan; Screenplay Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown; Camera Roger Pratt; Editor Julian Doyle; Music Michael Kamen; Art Director Norman Garwood


(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1985. Running time: 142 MIN.


Jonathan Pryce Robert De Niro Michael Palin Kim Greist Katherine Helmond Ian Holm
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