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The Zero Theorem

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
The Zero Theorem

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Zero Theorem’ is a lo-fi, future-tech farce with an air of high-end cyber panto. The stars still come out for the director of ‘Brazil’, and a totally bald Christoph Waltz (‘Django Unchained’) features in every scene as Qohen Leth, an IT drone who’s lost his soul and maybe his mind. He’s working for a corporation called Mancom in a place and time that’s undefined but looks and feels like a fading but neon European everytown in the near future.

When Leth is drafted to work on a notorious project to prove the zero theorem (basically, that everything equals nothing), he enters an even deeper isolation, working from a disused, burnt-out church that he calls home and further loosening his grip on reality. Leth is in contact only with an online therapist (Tilda Swinton, buck-toothed, bewigged and Scottish), a zany French woman (Mélanie Thierry) who works in the virtual sex industry and his boss’s son (Lucas Hedges), who acts as his assistant. Elsewhere, Leth’s manager at work is played by David Thewlis and Matt Damon pops up a few times as the big boss of Mancom, his hair dyed bright white and wearing a suit patterned like a zebra.

It’s anarchic, sometimes amusing, intermittently tedious, with ideas about digital alienation and the corruption of technology that too often feel blunt and tired. If you take life literally or just lack patience for Gilliam’s scatty, jumble sale sci-fi aesthetic, ‘The Zero Theorem’ could be a trial. It shares genes with ‘Brazil’ and ‘Twelve Monkeys’, but comparisons to those films do it no favours: it lacks the wit and continuous charm of the first and the scale and knotty ideas of the second. What it’s most lacking is humour (there’s a shopping centre called Occupy Mall Street: we need more of that) and a sense that it knows something we already don’t. But it’s hard to knock Gilliam’s scattershot imagination, and Waltz anchors the madness in a solid, disturbed, but not too frenzied performance as Leth.

Written by Dave Calhoun

Release Details

  • Rated:15
  • Release date:Friday 14 March 2014
  • Duration:107 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Terry Gilliam
  • Screenwriter:Pat Rushin
  • Cast:
    • Christoph Waltz
    • David Thewlis
    • Mélanie Thierry
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