The Zero Theorem (2013) Film Review


Terry Gilliam’s newest endeavour returns to the familiar setting of a dystopian world however, unlike Brazil, the world of The Zero Theorem is bright, brash and loud with ads that literally follow you as you walk down a street.  Gilliam has described it as the final part of a trilogy with Brazil and Twelve Monkeys.

Oscar winner Christoph Waltz is Qohen Leth, a reclusive computer genius on an existential quest, who is asked by Management (Matt Damon) to work on the Zero Theorem but finds his life interrupted by Mélanie Thierry’s Bainsley, the love interest, and Lucas Hedges’ Bob, a young gifted computer engineer.  Added to the mix is Leth’s meddling manager, Joby (David Thewlis) and Dr Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton bringing humour as an AI shrink).

Visually this is unmistakably Gilliam’s work, Gilliamesque as one may call it, from Leth’s quiet,  contemplative surroundings of his home in an old church to the brash, loud excesses of the outside world and to Bainsley’s virtual beach where it’s always sunset.  I found that this take on a dystopian world certainly a lot more believable than the typical dark, grey dim world previously favoured by many directors.

Waltz was, again, on fine form as Leth, almost a parody of the stereotype of a computer genius scurrying from home to work, being awkward at parties and seeking solace in his home not leaving for nearly a year.  Leth is brought out of his shell (ok, maybe forced) by Bainsley, portrayed by Mélanie Thierry, an actor who is relatively new to audiences outside of France.  Thierry was mesmerising as she brought colour into Leth’s life, intruding but not offensive.

Of surprise was Lucas Hedges, another new talent.  He held his own well opposite Waltz as the other intrusion into Leth’s life as Bob, the teenaged son of Management.  I am certainly looking forward to seeing him and Thierry in future features.

As for the plot, unfortunately I felt a little let down by this aspect.  The performances, visuals and music/sound were superb however I came away from the screening a little perplexed by what the exact goal of the plot was.  I do understand Gilliam wanted to leave the ending open but I felt it was a little too open.  Maybe it would warrant a second viewing.

It may not be a classic like Brazil and the plot does not quite fulfil its purpose but the performances, visuals and sound help to alleviate these concerns.

The Zero Theorem will be released in the UK on 14th March.

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