Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers.
The film stars Jonathan Pryce as Sam Lowry, a low-level bureaucrat whose vivid dream fantasies intersect with terrorist intrigue when his dream girl, played by Kim Greist, turns up as the neighbor of a man arrested as a terrorist on account of a typographical error. Robert De Niro has a small but memorable role as a renegade heating technician, and Michael Palin appears as a family man whose daytime job is being a torturer.
Set "somewhere in the 20th century", the world of Brazil is a gritty urban hellhole patched over with cosmetic surgery and "designer ducts for your discriminating taste". Automation pervades every facet of life from the toast & coffee machine to doorways, but paperwork, inefficiency, and mechanical failure are the rule. A mysterious wave of terrorist bombings is met by an increasingly powerful Ministry of Information, whose jackbooted thugs never admit to arresting and torturing the wrong man for information.
Universal chairman Sid Sheinberg and Gilliam disagreed over the film; Sheinberg insisted on drastically reediting the film to give it a happy ending, which Gilliam resisted vigorously.
The movie was shelved by Universal, but Brazil promptly won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association award for "Best Picture". That, coupled with a full- page Variety ad taken out by Gilliam questioning Sheinberg, shamed Universal into finally releasing Gilliam's version in 1985.
Upon release, however, Brazil performed poorly. Audiences were confused. Nonetheless, the film remains a cult favorite, particularly among Gilliam's fans. In tone and setting, Gilliam's later reality-twisting Twelve Monkeys resembles Brazil. It has also, inevitably, been compared to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Sheinberg's edit, the so-called "Love Conquers All" version, was shown on network television, and is available as an extra on the Criterion DVD release of the film.
Gilliam refers to this film as the second of a trilogy of movies, including Time Bandits (1981) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989). He notes that the three films share a related theme of the struggle for imagination and free thinking in a world constantly suppressing such ideas.
Unfortunately the plot has some major confusing points, the most notable being the instant hate-to-love transition made by the female lead for the hero Sam Lowry.
With its complex, subtle, and confusing plot, packed with jokes and ideas, Brazil is a movie to be watched several times. It is also so packed with visual detail that it helps to see it on a large screen.
Potential Spoilers: Points to Consider after Several Viewings
See Also: List of movies - List of actors - List of directors - List of documentaries - List of Hollywood movie studios