The Zero Theorem

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The Zero Theorem

A new Terry Gilliam film is always good news. The Monty Python alumnus’s visual style is layered, very funny, and always a delight to look at, even when the story he’s telling isn’t quite up to the same level. Which has been a little too often of late, though to be fair misfires like The Brothers Grimm and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus weren’t entirely his fault. So having him go it alone and put out a low-budget indie film seems like a step forward, even if the end result is a little… uneven.
Here in another of Gilliam’s not-quite-futures – there’s very little here that’s actually futuristic, but everything has been turned up to eleven then tipped on its head à la one of Gilliam’s best loved films, Brazil – computer genius Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) demands to be allowed to work at home (an abandoned church) so he can wait by the phone for a call that will give his existence meaning. Management (Matt Damon) eventually agrees, with a catch: he now must prove “The Zero Theorem”, a formula (solved in this case via a video game style program) designed to demonstrate that all life is meaningless. Largely confined to the crowded spaces of Qohen’s church, the film’s single location is well handled, and various visitors – the sexy Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), Management’s hacker son Bob (Lucas Hedges) – keep things interesting.
But the story (by Pat Rushin) goes nowhere, gesturing at profundity while the characters remain clichés shouting dull dialogue over the colourless Qohen. Still, even sub-par Gilliam is worthwhile. This remains a feast for the eyes, even while your mind goes hungry.
Written by Anthony Morris