There is not a single joke, sight-gag or one-liner in Monty Python's Life of Brian
that will not forever burn itself into the viewer's memory as being just as funny as it is possible to be, but--extraordinarily--almost every indestructibly hilarious scene also serves a dual purpose, making this one of the most consistently sustained film satires ever made. Like all great satire, the Pythons not only attack and vilify their targets (the bigotry and hypocrisy of organised religion and politics) supremely well, they also propose an alternative: be an individual, think for yourself, don't be led by others. "You've all got to work it out for yourselves", cries Brian in a key moment. "Yes, we've all got to work it our for ourselves", the crowd reply en masse. Two thousand years later, in a world still blighted by religious zealots, Brian's is still a lone voice crying in the wilderness. Aside from being a neat spoof on the Hollywood epic, it's also almost incidentally one of the most realistic on-screen depictions of the ancient world--instead of treating their characters as posturing historical stereotypes, the Pythons realised what no sword 'n' sandal epic ever has: that people are all the same, no matter what period of history they live in. People always have and always will bicker, lie, cheat, swear, conceal cowardice with bravado (like Reg, leader of the People's Front of Judea), abuse power (like Pontius Pilate), blindly follow the latest fads and giggle at silly things ("Biggus Dickus"). In the end, Life of Brian
teaches us that the only way for a despairing individual to cope in a world of idiocy and hypocrisy is to always look on the bright side of life.
On the DVD: Life of Brian returns to Region 2 DVD in a decent widescreen anamorphic print with Dolby 5.1 sound--neither are exactly revelatory, but at least it's an improvement on the previous release, which was, shockingly, pan & scan. The 50-minute BBC documentary, "The Pythons", was filmed mainly on location in 1979 and isn't especially remarkable or insightful (a new retrospective would have been appreciated). There are trailers for this movie, as well as Holy Grail plus three other non-Python movies. There's no commentary track, sadly. --Mark Walker
Director Nick Love knows how to pick up a poisoned chalice. In choosing to tackle a modern day take on Alan Clarkes 1989 The Firm, he risks the wrath of upsetting those who regard the original so highly, while also being accused of jumping aboard the remake bandwagon. As it turns out, though, he gets away with it all. Loves version of The Firm wisely uses the early film as inspiration rather than a firm template. Thus, while the setting remains underground football violence, Love switches the attention to a different character, the youngster breaking into the crowd. This allows the narrative to focus on his becoming accepted by the group, and then his struggle to break free, which settles into a solid three-act story. Its very much aimed at an adult audience, but that doesnt mean that The Firm is a cheap piece of cinema. Far from it, as it happens. Loves film mixed in sharp violence with sparks of humour, and does so to very good effect. In the process, it sidesteps comparisons to the original by simply going off in a different direction, and works well because of it. Its a little more tempered than some of Nick Loves earlier work too, but perhaps as a consequence, its also his best film to date.