The film is set in a near future dystopian world where the bureaucrats run the world. Due to a mistake on paper, the wrong man is arrested, tortured and killed. The problem lands in the lap of day-dreaming government employee Jonathan Pryce. When Pryce goes to see the widow, he discovers that the girl of his dreams lives upstairs and is now considered a terrorist for reporting the mistake to the government. Meanwhile Pryce has his air conditioning break and fixed by an unlicensed air conditioning specialist (Robert De Niro) who left the government because he hates paperwork and is also the actual person who was scheduled for arrest and torture by the government.
The film has a messy history. Universal Studios was unhappy with the film and studio head Sid Sheinberg wanted the film to have a happier ending. Gilliam fought against it and the film’s release was delayed. A compromise was reached and an shorter semi-approved version of the film was released theatrically where it didn’t fair too well. But the film has been become an acclaimed cult film. It was Criterion who first released the original director’s cut in an awesome box set that included the director’s cut, the shorter theatrical cut and the studio’s happy ending cut. The new Blu-ray from Criterion only features the director’s cut and the happy ending cut along with the awesome documentary The Battle of Brazil. Universal released the theatrical cut on Blu-ray in July of this year but the better version to own is the Criterion Collection.