The Zero Theorem

Critics Consensus

Fans of director Terry Gilliam's trademark visual aesthetic will find everything they've bargained for, but for the unconverted, The Zero Theorem may prove too muddled to enjoy.



Reviews Counted: 122

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User Ratings: 9,642


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Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.1/5

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Movie Info

Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)'s madcap science fiction epic The Zero Theorem stars two- time Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz as Qohen Leth, an eccentric and reclusive computer genius plagued with existential angst. Living in isolation in a burnt-out church, Qohen is obsessively working on a mysterious project personally delegated to him by Management (Matt Damon) aimed at discovering the meaning of life - or the complete lack of one - once and for all. Increasingly disturbed by unwanted visits from people he doesn't fully trust, including flirtatious Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), Management's wunderkind son Bob (Lucas Hedges), his unpredictable colleague Job (David Thewlis), and would-be digital therapist Dr. Shrink-Rom (Tilda Swinton), it's only when he experiences the power of love and desire that he's able to understand his own reason for being. (c) Amplify

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Christoph Waltz
as Qohen Leth
Tilda Swinton
as Dr. Shrink-Rom
Matt Damon
as Management
Gwendoline Christie
as Street Commercial
Rupert Friend
as Street Commercial
Lily Cole
as Street Commercial
Ray Cooper
as Street Commercial
Margarita Doyle
as Mancom Computerized Lips
Emil Hostina
as Slim Clone
Pelvic Nemes
as Chubs Clone
Dana Rogoz
as Pizza Girl
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News & Interviews for The Zero Theorem

Critic Reviews for The Zero Theorem

All Critics (122) | Top Critics (28)

Say this for Terry Gilliam: Even when he repeats himself, he's unique.

Oct 9, 2014 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Gives one the sense that the ex-Monty Python-ite thinks he's at a filmmaker version of the Last Chance Saloon, manufacturing and recycling as fast as he can.

Sep 25, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It's bursting with Gilliam's trademark manic energy, but the focus and execution are so soft that that energy ends up derailing the film instead of invigorating it.

Sep 25, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

The culture's caught up to Gilliam. Everybody's doing Orwell now. But Gilliam's appropriation feels both aptly skeptical and unfashionably utopian.

Sep 24, 2014 | Full Review…

There is something so generous and so full-hearted in this profusion that to complain seems churlish, but "The Zero Theorem" has a bothersome ratio of misses to hits.

Sep 22, 2014 | Full Review…

This "Theorem" is all sizzle, zero steak.

Sep 19, 2014 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Zero Theorem

A solipsistic computer scientist is tasked to prove that humans' work amounts to nothing. Terry Gilliam's art department is on full display, but his skill as a story-teller isn't. The scene design pops, and Gilliam's frenetic future is both frighteningly possible and a visual feast. He moves the camera deftly but often, which seems contradictory. The story, however, is weird. Qohen's job looks like a video game with obscure math equations, and it only gains significance in the third act, and even then, the narrative has already been distracted by a ham-handed love plot that defies credibility (why is she apologizing and believing in the relationship when the previous scene involved his over-zealous advances?). It's all very pretty and confusing, which are the best two adjectives for Gilliam's work as a whole. Overall, some fun art direction doesn't save this weak story.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


The production design is impressive, as well as the use of tilt shots and wide angle lenses to distort what we see, but still this is a silly and frustrating film whose interesting ideas get reduced in the same way that science is portrayed as a video game of fitting blocks.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

The Zero Theorem has no objective to entertain with a coherent story. It's a vague rumination of a concept. The lack of specifics makes the disastrous beginning extremely hard to sit through. My consistent thought during the first half: What in the name of Egon Pearson is this movie about?! There are creative features of the society that do captivate. Robin Williams briefly appears on a billboard that promotes "The Church of Batman the Redeemer". Party-goers dance to music on their own cell phones instead of what's playing at the party. Terry Gilliam's world building is impressive. But look past those amusing gags and we're left with an inkling of an idea unable to support a compelling narrative. It recalls his brilliant Brazil in style but not in substance. The Zero Theorem is a thoroughly uninvolving exercise in abstract thought, and it's not even a very interesting one at that.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer


Qohen Leth: Waiting for The Call. What other reason is there to pick up the phone? Director Terry Gilliam falls into the category of filmmakers that make movies that fit entirely into their own genres. Quentin Tarantino makes Tarantino movies rather than straight comedies or action movies. Tim Burton used to not really make horror or fantasy films, but instead he made Tim Burton films (hopefully he gets back to that soon). I could go on, but Terry Gilliam does not really make science fiction films, he makes Terry Gilliam films, and that is what The Zero Theorem amounts to. While the film feels like it has too much indebted to his own past work, specifically his best film (arguably), Brazil, The Zero Theorem is still unlike any sort of traditional take on dystopian sci-fi worlds, because Gilliam operates on his very own level, even while battling studios to preserve his vision. As a result, while visually arresting and well-acted, it is not as conceptually interesting as it is a fun polish on some old ideas. read the whole review of

Aaron Neuwirth
Aaron Neuwirth

Super Reviewer

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