Back in 1985, Terry Gilliam directed Brazil, a science-fiction comedy like no other about a dystopian future in which the world is run by totalitarian bureaucracy. It wasn't a big hit in the US but it did well everywhere else and over time it has become something of a cult classic.
The film follows Jonathan Pryce's Sam Lowry, a meek government employee whose dreary life is turned upside down when he literally meets the woman of his dreams. The world depicted in Brazil is a gloomy, depressing one with its backwards technology, its inhuman laws, its crushingly industrial metropolis and yet Gilliam manages to find the humour in that setting by emphasising just how ridiculous this society has become with countless larger-than-life characters and awkward tech. The result is kind of a cross between 1984, Blade Runner and Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life. The dreams Lowry has, in which he's flying, saving a damsel in distress from monsters, look beautiful and work as a perfect contrast to the cruel reality he has to deal with. The cinematography, production design and art direction are all impressive throughout so, whether you like the film or not, you'll at least praise the visuals and the overall ambition of the project.
Speaking of which, this is a typically ambitious Terry Gilliam film: huge in scale, complex, rich in extravagant sets, props and costumes, not to mention ingenious practical effects. It cost much less than The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen to produce but you certainly wouldn't know it just looking at it. At its heart, however, Brazil is a simple love story that's well handled which makes it easier to follow than the much shorter and more low-key The Zero Theorem, which was also a sci-fi satire. Pryce is excellent in a career-best role and the rest of the cast is really good too as the likes of Robert DeNiro, Bob Hoskins, Michael Palin and Ian Holm all show up to portray some strange characters. As the rebellious love interest, Kim Greist works but one wishes her character had been developed a little bit more. At over two-and-a-half hours, there are probably parts of the film you could see being edited out but, then again, it all fits so well together you wouldn't want to toy with it.
It may not be for everyone but fans of Gilliam's unique style of storytelling should discover a mini-masterpiece in Brazil. This is one strange, cluttered movie but it's one with a truly fascinating vision of the future you won't find anywhere else and the romance at its heart is unapologetically bittersweet.
One of Gilliam's best.