Director: Terry Gilliam
Year: 1985
TRT: 2:23

This is not your average film, and one I must say is one of the most difficult films to review for the DMR. It's hard to not compare it to Orwell's 1984, which, as you may or may not know, is not exactly the most uplifting of stories. This was the main problem Gilliam had with his fight with Universal to try and release his original version of the movie (they cut together an entirely different take on the film). While quite surreal and unbelievable when it was released in 1985, it has a much more relevant context as we now currently face war with the unseen enemy of terrorism, and the machinery of government grinds on to produce a favorable opinion of itself while the economy goes to hell.

This is pure black comedy, mostly in that it is so sad it is funny. It revolves around Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), happily invisible as a small cog in the wheel of information processing. Though content to live life as an anonymous consumer (aka a model citizen), he does have a strange fantasy of a love that gives him the motivation to rise above his monotonous lifestyle. Because this is not normal, and people are by all means not encouraged to dream, he quickly finds himself in a lot of trouble. And because everything is driven by a paperwork-driven bureaucracy, a police-state of a war-driven society, and false hopes, it puts a considerable strain on the human condition.

What really makes this film that much more impressive is the style and imagery in which it is all played out. There is the theme of technology, that Gilliam loves to use as its own character. While it is supposed to be part of a future that helps makes lives easier, it is inherently flawed and makes existence that much worse. And the completely polar society that is presented in itself makes this story that much more odd and frighteningly real in some aspects, where an idiotic bureaucracy has run horribly amok.

Great Scene(s): Quite a few, including when Jack first meets rogue heating engineer Harry (played amusingly by Robert De Niro), the pathetically ineffectual Ian Holm, the stenographer of Jack taking her notes on interrogations, and the interrogation room itself for its pure emotional power.

DVD Notes: The 1998 Universal release is technically considered unrated because it has additional footage added that was never re-submitted to the MPAA (apparently this costs gobs of money to have some stuck-up blokes in the nicer side L.A. turn their noses at it). The single DVD contains a few pages of production notes and some quotes of Gilliam on what he thinks the film is generally about. Also on the disc is Cast and Filmmakers Bios and the trailer. A special note: There is a 3-DVD set Special Edition Criterion version as well, that has commentary by Gilliam on the 142 minute cut of the film, as well as a huge collection of images, production work, and documentaries on the making of the film, and the 94-minute (!!!) cut that Universal made with commentary by Gilliam and journalist David Morgan. Some day...some day...