Brazil (1985)

brazil poster 1985 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Influential fantasy comedy-drama

Sometimes the surreal almost gets too surreal

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Brazil

Studio:  Embassy International

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Drama/Comedy

Release Date(s):  February 20, 1985 (France)/February 22, 1985 (UK)

MPAA Rating:  R

brazil jonathan pryce kim greist flying

If you’re going to go…go out with a bang!

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is a government employee with grand dreams of flight and being a hero to a beautiful woman (Kim Greist). When a clerical mistake has Archibald Buttle arrested instead of Archibald Tuttle (Robert De Niro), Sam must clean up the mess, but in the process, learns his dream woman is real. Now, Sam is out to find the woman and discovers himself pulled deeper and deeper into an antigovernment moment that could lead to treason.

Directed by Terry Gilliam, Brazil is a dystopian comedy-fantasy. The film resulted in a battle over the editing (with Gilliam winning) and critical acclaim. The film was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #51) which included the “Love Conquers All” reedited version of the film.

Brazil is loosely considered part of a Terry Gilliam trilogy known as the “Trilogy of Imagination” with Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). I saw Time Bandits in the theater, but it was years before I saw Brazil…and I wouldn’t have appreciated it if I had seen it when I was a kid.

brazil face lift katherine helmond jim broadbent

You got to look good in the future

The story plays a lot with the surreal and absurd. The world of Brazil has some basis in 1984 (though Gilliam never read it). It is a society where every step is monitored and everything has its place. What doesn’t fit in a society like this is a dreamer, and Sam is a dreamer. For society to continue to function, dreaming must be eradicated, and Sam cannot survive. Like many dystopian films, you know it isn’t going to end well, but it does end the best it can for Sam…a fool’s paradise.

The role of Sam went back and forth for a while with a younger Sam being considered (with the likes of Tom Cruise being tossed around). I think an older Sam is more appropriate because most of his ideological beliefs have been beaten out of him and only freedom exists in dreams…and seeing a dream could be real changes everything. Robert De Niro, Ian Holm, Jim Broadbent, Ian Richardson, and Bob Hoskins both take smaller but significant roles while Katherine Helmond is a scene-stealer as Sam’s plastic surgery obsessed mother. Much of Kim Greist’s role was cut down due to Gilliam not loving the performance.

brazil jonathan pryce ending

They say I have a baby face

Visually, Brazil excels. The movie makes use of practical effects and uses it to highlight the absurdity of the situations (like the shared desk or the little car), but it also dips into fantasy with Sam’s dreams of flying or horror with the lobotomy room and the nightmarish baby mask. Gilliam always has presented visually interesting films, and Brazil might be his greatest in that sense.

Brazil is a great film with a lot of levels. While it is a comedy, it can also be a rather hardcore science fiction. It has drama, romance, and horrific events that makes it a movie worthy of watching multiple times. Take the trip, and then take it again…Brazil always calls you back!

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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