The film opens with an idyllic scene of a family watching Tiny Tim spout wisdom in “A Christmas Carol” on TV, only to have Dickens give way to Kafka and Orwell as a government SWAT team raids the living room and (thanks to a bureaucratic error) grabs the wrong man. So progresses Terry Gilliam’s magnum opus, where scenes of holiday cheer are routinely transformed into scenes of horror and absurdity. (Case in point: the bit where the heroic Robert De Niro turns into a human wad of discarded giftwrap, his surreal plight ignored by holiday shoppers.)
In a world where the state has a monopoly on truth and can bend reality according to political whim, it’s no wonder that government functionary Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) soon loses the ability to tell fantasy from reality. As it turns out, a holiday from reality (either through insanity or death) is the only path to freedom.
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