The Zero Theorem (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/10/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 107 mins

With strong echoes of Brazil and some nice ideas, The Zero Theorem is a return to at least mid-level form for Terry Gilliam, thanks to a witty script, some delightful production design work and superb performances from Christoph Waltz and Melanie Thierry.

What's it all about?
Directed by Terry Gilliam, The Zero Theorem is set in a distant, tech-obsessed future and stars Christoph Waltz as depressed number-cruncher Qohen, who has lost the ability to taste or feel anything and has taken to referring to himself in the third person, so disconnected is he from his day-to-day life. Despising his chaotic work environment at Mancom, Qohen begs his manager (David Thewlis) to be allowed to work at home (an abandoned church) and his chance comes after he meets the mysterious Management (Matt Damon) at a party.

Tasked with inputting an endless series of numbers in order to discover the meaning (or rather, meaninglessness) of existence (aka The Zero Theorem), Qohen dedicates himself to his new job, but he gets distracted when he meets the seductive Bainsley (Melanie Thierry), a sexy fellow employee who keeps popping round dressed in a nurse's outfit and persuading him to join her in an erotic online encounter via a virtual reality suit. And as if that wasn't bad enough, Management also sends round his tech-savvy young son Bob (Lucas Hedges) to make sure Qohen's system is in working order.

The Good
Christoph Waltz is excellent as Qohen and his inch-by-inch character progression is surprisingly moving: he begins the film as something not unlike a shuffling, muttering madman, almost impossible to relate to, let alone have any affection for, but you gradually warm to him so that by the time he stops referring to himself in the third person, you're ready to almost punch the air in triumph.

Similarly, Melanie Thierry is almost ridiculously sexy as Bainsley (whoever is marketing the film should make sure her website actually exists, or at least plays Karen Souza's version of Creep over her photo) and there's strong comic support from Thewlis (very funny as Qohen's manager) and an almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton as Qohen's online shrink.

The Great
The film has strong, pleasing echoes of Brazil running throughout and the script has a lot of fun exploring ideas of love, religion, free will and the general meaning of life in a technology-obsessed world; indeed, the film is packed with intriguing ideas, which occasionally threaten to overload the viewer, much like Qohen's overworked computer system. It is also further heightened by some brightly coloured and terrifically detailed production design work – it's the sort of film that will reward multiple viewings, since there's always something going on in the background of each scene (e.g. the scrolling news stories).

Worth seeing?
Imaginative, thought-provoking and surprisingly moving, The Zero Theorem is a hugely enjoyable and superbly acted sci-fi drama that marks something of a return to form for Terry Gilliam. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/04/2019 22:05

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