Here’s a shock to no one: Terry Gilliam is insane. He is also one of the most iconic directors of all time, less for his actual films and more for his style. We all know when a film is done by Terry Gilliam. He’s had duds (Tideland and Brothers Grimm come to mind immediately), but he’s had some truly amazing films as well, such as Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, 12 Monkeys, and Brazil, his most personal film that ended up proving itself right. It joins the ranks of Blade Runner as a film that the studio edited into a loathed version that is almost never seen anymore. The film itself is a spectacle in how pessimistic he could be about his job and still entertain.
Jonathan Pryce is Sam Lowry, a government worker who dreams of saving a damsel-in-distress in the film’s iconic dream sequences. When a clerical error has a man killed due to treason that he didn’t actually commit, Sam has to deliver the compensation, while Jill Layton, played by Kim Greist, tries to get the overly-bureaucratic government to realize their mistake, which gets her marked as a terrorist by the government. She also looks like the girl in Sam’s dreams, meaning that he tries to “save” her, as well as fight against the government that just confuses and annoys him.
And the man who was supposed to be arrested? Tuttle, played by Robert De Niro, an unliscenced air conditioning specialist who refuses to work for the government because he doesn’t like paperwork. And the worst threat in this plan of Sam’s? Jack Lint, played by Gilliam’s former Python partner Michael Palin, an interrogator for the government whose victims usually die while being interrogated.
For anyone who knows of Gilliam in the film world, the government is obviously analogous to the film companies who usually clashed with his ideas. He doesn’t like them and he will show that hatred in the most spiteful way he could. Yet, it is also a satire, a dark comedy, and elements such as Tuttle and Sam’s mother showcase a comedic edge that helps make the mean-spiritedness of the main plot palpable. We can only deal with this film with the lighter moments, which don’t stick in our minds like the main satire does. Let it never be said that Gilliam ever half-assed his visions. The film is great because it succeeds and excels to show what happens when we have no individual power.
When Universal cut the ending, the cut the last half-hour and used stock footage from Blade Runner to create a happy ending. The original film, at 142 minutes, has a very dark ending, but is more powerful because of it.
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin