However, Gilliam's unique visual style works incredibly well in this futuristic satire. He expertly blends absurdist humor with the right amount of realism. Making his critique of bureaucratic inefficiency very potent.
When a typo causes a man to be killed by mistake, the system set up around the lives of the general public begins to crumble slightly. And when Sam Lowry glimpses the girl of his dreams (literally) he decides to stop at nothing to get to her. All this and more set in a dystopian future where restaurants serve green mash and heating repairmen are forced to turn vigilante in order to preserve the wellfare of the suffering public.
Jonathan Pryce plays our lead, Sam, and he is brilliant. Before he was Elizabeth Swann's befuddled father, he was battling the baffling circumstances he was presented with in Brazil. He goes through a thousand and one things, from battling huge samurai warriors to his heating system acting up and is brilliant throughout. He manages to make us feel the strain, the confusion, the highs and the lows of all the situations he finds himself in with fantastic restraint, akin to Michael Stuhlbarg in A Serious Man. Often roles like this can be mistaken for caricatures and become send-ups of themselves, but Jonathan Pryce brings the perfect amount of quirkiness, innocence and desperation to Lowry which makes the role so believeable, despite the unbelieveable circumstances surrounding him. It's because of him that the entire film stays grounded, at least slightly. Well let's say it keeps us in the atmosphere at least, rather than taking us into orbit. The rest of the cast don't have nearly as much time spent on them, though they deliver great performances, including a fantastically absurd turn from Robert De Niro as Harry Tuttle the repairman and Ian Holm is great as Lowry's boss. Michael Palin is fantastic as Jack Lint. He is typical Palin at first, but he shows a very sinister side which makes it impossible to guage his actual motives at any point.
The script is great; filled with symbolism and quotable lines. It's appropriately absurd, considering the surroundings and it sustains the feeling of uncertainty, as if the entire world is slightly off centre. It's as if there is an entirely different language at play here which we should know, and we are plunged into the middle of it without any warning.
But it is the message of the film which makes it such an enduring classic. As sort of an exciting 1984 with a whole lot more gadgets, Brazil discusses the same topics as the George Orwell novel but in a much more personal way and a much more absorbing format. There is even a parallel that can be drawn between the leads of each story and their journey into the forbidden fruit of love. Gilliam shows the obvious problems with letting the system take over everyday life and the possibility of our personal lives being monitored and controlled by an impersonal system which classifies human beings into numbers on a list. He creates some incredible, indelible images which epitomise the message behind his film and a storyline which boggles the mind. The opening scenes themselves are amazing, especially the introduction to Sam's workplace to some fantastic music. And it only gets better from there, plunging the audience into samurai dreams, car chases and everything else short of actually entering Oz. And sure, the film goes on for about 20 minutes beyond any possible human comprehension, but Gilliam has created what all filmmakers aspire to create: a critically acclaimed, deeply personal statement which will live on timelessly in the minds of audiences all around the world.
Sam is joined by a crew of heating repairmen when in dire straits, and the madness continues.
"Has anybody seen Sam Lowry?"
"You're dead." "How about a little necrophilia?"
"Don't fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating."
"Well that's a pipe of a different colour."
"We're all in it together."
"Do you want to see my ID?" "No need, sir" "But I could be anybody." "No you couldn't sir. This is informational retrieval."
"Put it on big boy, I won't look at your willy."
"There's been a little complication with my complication."