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The Zero Theorem (Blu-ray Review)

Zero-TheoremTerry Gilliam returned to his realm of unique science fiction last year (or 2013 for some) with The Zero Theorem.  Many want to believe this is the third part in some sort of trilogy that include Gilliam’s earlier works of Brazil and 12 Monkeys.  12 Monkeys, by the way, is one of my most cherished and favorite films of all time (No-brainer Top 10).  So, I’m down with Gilliam’s ideals and style that may not appeal or even turn off your common movie-goer.  Gilliam has denied any sort of intentional connection between the three films.  I can see where folks might connect dots or be trying to string them together, but I have to side with Gilliam.  In all honesty, this is just him doing his thing more than it is crafting some sort of masterwork or trilogy in theme.  But, its there if people want it to be, I suppose.  This was a film I was really looking forward to last year in its small release, but it somehow got by me, but here I am with the Blu-ray and very excited to dig into this recent Terry Gilliam opus.

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Film 

Qohen Leth is an eccentric programmer working for a company called Mancom.  He is looking for a way to get himself on disability and work from home as he eagerly awaits a call he think is going to reveal to him his purpose in life.  He is deemed physically ok, but granted his disability based on his mental issues, where he’ll have to report to an AI psychologist regularly.  Qohen is also given a new assignment, the Zero Theorem, which he believes may hold the key to the questions of life he is seeking answers for.

As complex as the sets, costume design, characters and ideals of The Zero Theorem come across, our base story for the film actually has a surprisingly simple beginning, middle and end.  When I sat down to watch, I was prepared for a sort of deep, intellectual mindf*** kind of film, and was delivered something rather easy going, but with some extraordinary details to accompany it.  This world and its inhabitants are a rich, exhilarating place and people to admire, wonder at and enjoy but when it all breaks down, our main character and his quest or journey is simple.

Terry Gilliam’s new film features a lot of quick small roles from familiar faces (Rupert Friend, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Stormare), but a lot are just there and gone.  We do get Tilda Swinton in one of her many goofy character roles from last year.  Christoph Waltz runs this thing from start to finish, and like everything except Carnage, he’s fantastic.  This is a very different role for him.  We’re used to seeing him play rather extravagant, eccentric but confident characters.  Here he’s very timid and mentally taxed and not there.  His character refers to himself in the plural sense which Waltz makes look so natural and effortless.  We’ve enjoyed and awarded the man for great work in Tarantino’s last two films, but I think I may rather be more impressed with this one as he has a full on transformative role.

Gilliam’s film proves that he’s “still got it” when it comes to films of this ilk.  The man also is able to take his visions and apply them to modern times with such a natural and effortless approach that makes the world of Zero Theorem not really feel far off from Brazil.  Or that this world might just be many years down the road from that one.  The outfits, technology, and environments are all incredible and quite unique.  This film also contains many of the camera movements and techniques that Gilliam’s movies are known for too, making it an easy fit.  I also found some very Monty Python-like art incorporated into a few of the computer programs used and got a good little giggle from that.

The Zero Theorem is a solid film.  Whereas if I’m holding up to Brazil and 12 Monkeys to which its supposed to be a companion to, its an easy third place.  If those two masterpieces are surefire As on a grading scale, then The Zero Theorem is a legit B.  That’s not a bad thing, its still a very good movie and Terry Gilliam fans will surely dig it quite a bit.  It is well worth your time to take the trip to try and crack The Zero Theorem.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1

Clarity/Detail:  This one is shot on glorious film, helping it to look like the older stuff.  Its got a nice crisp image and there is plenty rich detail to be had throughout.  Things are nicely lit and clear to make out clothing fabric textures and well as details on on the wiring and scuffs on monitors and tech equipment.  The only downfall is that some of the CG in the film can look a little bit obvious at times.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich, and end up working quite nicely in keeping a defined image.  There are scenes where Matt Damon’s character is wear clothing to keep camouflaged in blackness, but you can still make out his figure in it quite easily.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are vibrant and pop.  Even the dingiest of scenes pop with a rich grungy kind of beauty.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural, some environments have the Sprite bottle green Matrix tinge to them, so skin will take on that quality a little bit.  Wrinkles, markings and such all appear very clearly.

Noise/Artifacts:  A nice layer of grain is visible.  Its a clean transfer.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This is a nice vivid Terry Gilliam experience through the 5.1 track.  The score is set a little bit higher than the dialogue or effects, but its not too distractingly so.  There are some good distinct and lifelike sounding moments.  Its a nice compliment to what’s going on onscreen.

Low Frequency Extension:  Crashes, hums and scoring enhancement come from your subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There are some really well thought out and fun things going on in your rear speakers to help bring this world to life.  The front speakers also feature plenty of fun sounds and pitches.  Audio matches and moves to action onscreen quite well.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Crisp, clear and clean.

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Extras 

Behind The Scenes (HD, 18:29) – A promo interview friendly look at the production of the film.  Features behind the scenes footage and plenty of the main players on the film in discussion.

Visual Effects (HD, 6:42) – Talks about the marriage of practical effects and computer effects in the film.  Also covers their unique approach to future technology.

Costumes (HD, 28:28) – A very detailed piece on the costuming, influences and design of characters and what they wear in the film.

The Sets (HD, 18:17) – A detailed look at the locations in the film.  Where they shot and what they had to build.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:00) 

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Summary 

The Zero Theorem may not be Terry Gilliam’s best, or even best of this “trilogy” people speak of, but it sure is another entertaining and weird film from one of time’s most interesting directors.  Christoph Waltz gives a great performance in a film that has a terrific look and feel.  This Blu-ray features great video and audio and a detailed look at the production in the form of extras.  Currently, this film has been on sale for $11.99, and for that, and the fact its a brand spanking new release, I think its an easy pick up.  Even as a blind buy.  If you’re a Gilliam fan, or even just like the two movies I mentioned from him in this review, this is a no-brainer.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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