Brazil – Blu-ray Review

Duct soup

Robert De Niro spent five years fixing malfunctioning toilet cisterns in Stoke On Trent in preparation for this role.

Release Date: 5 December 2011
1985 | 15 | 143 minutes | £15.99
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Director: Terry Gilliam
Cast: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Robert De Niro, Bob Hoskins

The idea of a Terry Gilliam movie is often better than how they turn out on screen. Like Twelve Monkeys and The Fisher King, however, Brazil is a place where his unique mix of eye-catching visuals and anarchic storytelling cohere into a wonderful – if occasionally incoherent – whole.

It’s George Orwell filtered through Monty Python, set in a 1984-ish parallel world where the thought police come with the smiling face of Michael Palin, and bureaucracy runs amok – a dystopia spawned from the British class system. And as dystopias go, it’s been nearly as influential as Blade Runner, its wonderfully inventive retro-future chic making sure that it exists both in every bit of the 20th century and none of it.

It barely matters that the journey of idealistic civil servant Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) from downtrodden office drone to freedom fighter (via superhero dream sequences) makes barely a jot of sense. Or that Robert De Niro’s fugitive plumber Harry Tuttle never feels like he’s in the same movie as everyone else. Or even that Lowry’s love interest Kim Greist is a personality vacuum. Brazil is Gilliam at his incomparable best – a glorious, elegant mess.


Just a trailer and the same old “What Is Brazil?” documentary that’s been rolled out before. Where’s the Gilliam commentary and alternative cut from the US Criterion edition? Or the story of the movie’s difficult journey to the cinema? Poor.

Richard Edwards

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