The Review at a Glance: ( max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Universal - 1985
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 132 minutes
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert DeNiro, Michael Palin, Kim Greist
Directed by: Terry Gilliam
Music by: Michael Kamen
Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard ,Charles McKeown
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: July 12, 2011
"It's only a state of mind."
A bureaucrat in a retro-future world tries to correct an administrative error and himself becomes an enemy of the state.
My Take:'Brazil' is the story of Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a jaded dreamer who works for 'big brother', aka The Ministry of Information or the MOI. Even though he has a better understanding of the system, its technology as well as paperwork, he is content, refusing opportunities to advance. That is until he meets, well sees, the woman of his dreams, Jill Layton (Kim Greist) while trying to rectify a wrongful arrest. He only then accepts the chance to advance in the MOI, just to find out more about her. The arrest was of a Harry Buttle, but the MOI was supposed to be getting Archibald 'Harry' Tuttle, played to perfection by Robert DeNiro. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy has fingered him responsible for a rash of terrorist bombings, due to his funny love-struck behavior his life is then put into a tailspin..
It seems to by my year of the "Gilliam". Having written up Time Bandits as well as The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, I also watched 12 Monkeys and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. I find his films stylistically more engaging as his plots tend to meander, waxing philosophically, yet never grabbing me by the throat. 'Brazil' is his ode to Orwell's 1984, as Gilliam's film creates the filmic archetype for sci/fi dystopia.
Never really loving any of his films, they have always left me a little empty, which is the compete opposite of his eye for detail. Looking at his films, it is obvious the man is a true auteur. I feel the films he directed but didn't write (Twelve Monkeys, The Fisher King) have a better structure as far a story-telling. 'Brazil' is considered his masterpiece, on the top of many lists as well as having a strong cult status. There are 3 versions of the film, Universal Studios 98 min cut, which had Gilliam up in arms, his 142 min director's cut (which criterion released on DVD) and this 132 min cut, the "compromise" between his vision and Universals attempt at making the film a bit more accessible to audiences. The 132 minute cut is what we get here and I agree with Universal...it needs a bit of editing.
Gilliam plays with themes that were relevant in 1985, but seem even more so today--terrorism, vanity, individual thought in a world controlled by bureaucracy. Everything said here is still fresh, but like I have said about Gilliam's films before, a lot of style over substance. I almost feel like his films are weird just to be weird. 'Brazil' certainly is a bizarre flick, with a retro yet futuristic world...you just have to see it to fully understand. Thankfully this is his film with the most substance, really trying to warn us of the dangers of excess as well as the dangers of technology and a society of government control...but only those who look deeper will find more in the tale, the rest will just see the weirdness scattered everywhere. As a stand alone story it's a bit unbalanced, swinging from interesting to baffling and from smart to absurd. This is a second only to Time Bandits and I think any fan of film need give it a spin. Its just not as great as the praise its often given leads us to believe.
Rated R for some strong violence.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Universal delivers a decent a catalog release with 'Brazil' which, of course, will be scrutinized by Gilliam and Criterion lovers as 'Brazil' has been released by the latter on DVD. Always having a dreamy-like gloss to its look, 'Brazil' certainly was colorful here, with flesh-tones that varied from pink to pale. Fine details were convincing on close-up shots, though softer looking on longer shots. Blacks go from inky with nice shadow detail to a slight crush, though holding up quite well most of the time. Grain does fluctuate from shot to shot, never looking like video-noise and being more frequent on frames that are effect heavy. The DTS-HD audio track was somewhat of a disappointment. Mainly in its volume levels between dialogue and the often much louder (though sounding quite nice) score by Michael Kamen. This was a front sound-stage affair, mainly focused on the center channel with a boxy-like quality to it. I just kept waning it to open-up and match the films great video design. There were glimmers of hope with a few moments where the effect channels do add to the experience and a few explosions do take use of the LFE channel. Be warned that comfortable listening level for dialogue will come with some moments to make you want to lower the volume when the score kicks in. I had the remote in hand way too often here.
- BD Live enabled
- Pocket Blu App
'Brazil' is a striking film to look at, with writer/director Terry Gilliams exquisitely insane style on full display here. Unfortunately the the film is a bit unbalanced, swinging from interesting to baffling and from smart to absurd. Universals transfer is the best we have seen 'Brazil', but the source could use a good scrubbing. I can only recommend a rental, especially considering this release has absolutely no extra features.
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