Sam Lowry is a harried technocrat in a futuristic society that is completely convoluted and inefficient. In his fantasy he dreams of a life where he can escape from the overpowering bureaucracy and spend eternity with the woman of his dreams. The unlikely happens while Sam is trying to rectify the wrongful arrest of one Archibald Buttle; the omnipresent computer that controls everything in the "real" world malfunctions. When this happens, Sam literally meets the woman he is always chasing in his dreams, Jill Layton. However, the mechanical bureaucracy has fingered him for a rash of terrorist bombings, and both Sam and Jill's lives are put in danger.