In a strange dystopian future, Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is a reclusive computer genius who lives in a burnt-out chapel waiting for a phone call which he is convinced will provide him with answers he has long sought. He works on a mysterious project, delegated to him by 'Management' (Matt Damon), aimed at discovering the purpose of existence once and for all. And proving that it amounts to zero. But his solitary existence is disturbed by visits from the flirtatious Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), and Bob (Lucas Hedges), Management's wunderkind son.
Terry Gilliam has had an enviable career. From cut-and-paste Python animations to manic, surreal cinematic masterpieces, his insatiable imagination has run riot. The Zero Theorem might be the most 'Gilliamesque' of the lot.
Anyone accustomed with the man's previous work will recognise his hallmarks: the bleak Orwellian fear; the paranoid loser at its centre (here in the form of a hairless Christoph Waltz); and the dystopian retro-futurist setting.
As a future concept, it's oddly old-fashioned. More analogue than digital, more Walkman than iPod, technology seems to have advanced (with a few exceptions) to the pulling of levers, the jabbing of buttons, the whirring of cogs.
Gilliam imagines a sort of steampunk tomorrow in which everyone - even paramedics and police officers - dress in multi-coloured high-vis spandex.
Which is not to say it doesn't look impressive; Gilliam has always been a visual director, first and foremost, and he works miracles with the measly budget afforded to him.