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The Zero Theorem, film review: Terry Gilliam's imagination remains freeflowing and fervent

(15) Terry Gilliam, 106 mins Starring: Christoph Waltz, Melanié Thierry, Tilda Swinton

Terry Gilliam's latest slice of dystopian sci-fi is packed to bursting with ideas, in-jokes and puns. Some work, some don't.

The setting is a chaotic, futuristic London where there are beggars on the streets and relentless digital advertising.

We catch a glimpse of a Boris Johnson lookalike on a bus and see ads for the "Church of Batman the Redeemer". (There is a hint of The Rocky Horror Show about the production design.)

The central character Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a Winston Smith-like everyman, waiting forlornly for a phone call that he hopes will clarify the metaphysical monstrosity of his own existence. The shifts in tone are often disconcerting.

Waltz plays his character in intense fashion but other cast members (David Thewlis as Qohen's boss, Mélanie Thierry as the woman who plays with his emotions) behave as if they are in some carnivalesque skit.

The film is a strange mixture of the flippant and the profound. It was clearly shot on a far tighter budget than Gilliam pictures such as Brazil and Twelve Monkeys and has an improvisatory, makeshift feel. At least, the director's imagination remains as freeflowing and fervent as ever.