Film Review – The Zero Theorem (2013)

Zero - post

Title – The Zero Theorem (2013)

Director – Terry Gilliam (The Fisher King)

Cast – Christoph Waltz, Melanie Thierry, David Thewlis, Lucas Hedges, Matt Damon, Tilda Swinton

Plot – Sometime in the future, computer hacker Qohen Leth (Waltz) is charged by Management (Damon) to start working from home on the Zero Theorem, a mysterious and possibly life changing piece of work. Qohen’s job is anything but straight forward though when into his life is thrust possible love interest Bainsley (Thierry) and Management’s own son and computer wizz Bob (Hedges). Just where will working on the Theorem take Qohen?

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Review by Eddie on 25/09/2014

Overflowing with life, busy production design and more eccentricities than a full season of the Mighty Boosh, Monty Python member Terry Gilliam’s latest ambitious Sci-Fi is also a movie filled with frustrations, unsatisfying pay offs, oddities for the sake of oddities and a story line so muddled it’s hard to see anyone truly coming to grips with what is one of the year’s most disappointing and convoluted tales.

The Zero Theorem sees Gilliam once more try to replicate his successes in the Sci-Fi genre that he had with classics like Brazil and 12 Monkeys, yet like so many of his films over the last few decades, Gilliam seems overtly lost in his own worlds, his creations that seem so ripe for ideas yet so hard to mould together creating an empty feel. Zero feels like some form of distant cousin to Brazil, there’s the totalitarian feel to the future world, there’s the strange fashion and flashes of colour in an otherwise grey land and there’s the up against it protagonist just like Sam Lowry in Brazil here played by the miscast Christoph Waltz. Gilliam fails to replicate what he has done previously though, an overabundance of visual ticks and tricks that seemingly try and mask Gilliam’s failings here as a storyteller, the master of ceremonies lost in his own creation can only but mean that the film was doomed no matter what the effort of those within it.

In a role that can’t have been easy, two time Oscar winner Waltz fails to plug into his character of Qohen Leth (not Quinn as everyone seems to say to the poor blighter) who is awaiting “a phone call” and is charged by Management (played by a underused Matt Damon) with a working at home gig to unlock the fabled Zero Theorem. Somehow in all of this Qohen’s manager Joby played by the always good David Thewlis and Melanie Thierry’s Bainsley get caught up in the ride along with annoying teenager Bob (Lucas Hedges) and even Tilda Swinton as a virtual shrink who seems to have borrowed a set of fangs from the Snowpiercer production and so Gilliam’s rag tag bunch of characters are formed and sadly that’s about it. Not a single character here connects in any meaningful way and in a film that no doubt wanted to say big things about equally big issues like the meaning of life, existence and human beings that is a detrimental mistake. Perhaps much of these failings could’ve been overlooked had Gilliam’s trademark black humour come to the forefront but unfortunately moments of genuine humour are scarcely seen amongst all the other cluttered elements.

Going for an all-out approach, Gilliam’s latest venture is yet another troubled film that can join the ranks of Dr. Parnassus, Tideland and The Brothers Grimm as recent entries into his filmography that unfortunately display a distinct lack of ability to portray a story in a satisfying way, something the once great talent use to excel at. The Zero Theorem feels underdeveloped, overplayed and wintery cold and is a movie that even die-hard fans of Gilliam could well go without seeing. Some neat production and some interesting ideas save the film from the doldrums of complete epic failures.

1 and a half singing pizza boxes out of 5

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12 responses to “Film Review – The Zero Theorem (2013)

  1. Shame to hear this because I love Waltz and had hopes for this one as well. My friend Chris reviewed this film as well and pretty much said Waltz carries the weird and dialogue constructed Sci Fi films. Sad to hear =/

    • I love Waltz to mate, he tried hard but I didn’t think he was a great choice for the role but anyone would of struggled to properly deliver this material. Very strange stuff.
      E

  2. Sorry to hear you really didn’t like this one. There was something about it that I actually quite liked, although I’d say I’m not a huge Gilliam fan in the first place. Nice review. 🙂

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