Brazil

Brazil

*****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Probably the quintessential Terry Gilliam film, Brazil provides an object lesson in how to create cinema with vision, blow an enormous budget, create an undeniable work of art that makes many viewers' all-time top ten lists, and yet still not achieve true box office success. It's a splendid example of imagination run riot across the silver screen, and although its story is very, very dark, it's told with such verve and panache that the whole thing feels like an amazing adventure.

That story centres on mild-mannered bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), whose efforts in trying to correct a mistake that has led to the arrest of an innocent man cause him to fall under suspicion himself. Inadvertently making contact with a renegade air-conditioning engineer (Robert De Niro) and concerned citizen Jill (Kim Greist), who has mysteriously appeared in his dreams, he stumbles into a nightmare world where the state of which he was once a part turns on him. Will his plastic surgery addict mother use her connections to help him? What about his best friend, small-time administrator and sometime torturer Jack? As he struggles to navigate a path to safety, everything that made his world make sense begins to unravel, as if reality itself is coming apart.

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With dazzling visual effects and stunning sets, Brazil is a film that you should see on the biggest screen possible. Its tremendous atmosphere dwarfs the earnest performances of its capable cast, but that's exactly as it should be - for all their courage, these characters are nonentities struggling against an all-powerful, self-reinforcing government machine. The visual scope of Brazil is a potent metaphor for the power of forces unseen, yet their monstrous nature is balanced by a witty and affectionate script that emphasises the humanity of our heroes. De Niro's character is undoubtedly insane, but he's tremendous fun, and the romance which develops between Sam and Jill is touching.

It's difficult to capture much of the essence of this remarkable film with mere words. See it for yourself and let it take your breath away.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2009
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Brazil packshot
A typo leads to an innocent man being confused with a revolutionary, plunging the life of a small time bureaucrat into chaos.
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Director: Terry Gilliam

Writer: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Kim Greist, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin, Ian Richardson, Peter Vaughan, Jim Broadbent, Charles McKeown

Year: 1985

Runtime: 142 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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