Scifi
Timeline
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Dir: Richard Donner
Star: Paul Walker, Frances O'Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, Anna Friel
Cert / Year: 12A - PG13 / 2003
Format: DVD R2
'

A group of archeology students working under Professor Johnston (Billy Connolly!) are investigating the 14-century ruins of a monastery in France. The Professor disappears after confronting the American corporation backing the dig, and the students set off to America to find him. The truth is more unbelievable than they imagined as they are told that the corporation has a time machine and now the Professor is stuck in the 14-century. They are talked into rescuing him only this may not be so easy as they arrive on the very day of a massive battle between the oppressed French and the evil English.

Ok lets get this out of the way yet again Hollywood are displaying the English as a bunch of evil oppressors. Lets face it this must have been one of the last films to do so as post Iraq they seem to have changed their minds (as in Master and Commander) and now it's the French's turn. Oh well if they want to do this it doesn't bother me especially if it’s in a film as poor as this.

The sad fact is that this film is a badly written mess. The idea of students going back in time to an age of castles and knights is a great idea, but I defy you to do it with such a lack of continuity or common sense. People in this film just don't behave in a normal way. For example two highly trained marines are slaughtered in the first two minutes because they are slower than a bunch of students in taking cover, or that they are not allowed to take modern weapons back but no attempt to give then contemporary weapons (even to the incompetent marines) is made. Time and again the characters in this film make illogical choices in order to further the plot, it's so bad it's funny in places.

The other major problem with the plot is the massive holes in it. I don't know whether this is down to editing or bad writing but certain scenes appear out of nowhere with no explanation, like when Marek and Lady Claire suddenly appear in a coracle. This leads to the biggest hole and massive paradox at the end when Lady Claire magically reappears as a captive of the English even though she had been rescued earlier. The excuse give is that you can't alter history. So what happens in the next scene, yep they alter history. Only earlier events in the film means they didn't, but they did. Oh dear my head hurts.

If all of this isn't bad enough then the filmmakers assume you are stupid. This film is packed full of plot exposition. Every plot point is gone over multiple times before any action is allowed to happen. It's infuriating and insulting heck this isn't the most complicated of films in the first place but this clumsy method ensures the ending is telegraphed in the first ten minutes. Guess what film studios we the public have brains and most of us don't have the IQ of an orange so maybe you could let us figure it out for ourselves. Mind you it would help if you provided a coherent story in the first place.

It isn't all doom and gloom though. The castle siege is impressive. The night scenes of volleys of flaming arrows are just heaps of fun. Ok so it doesn't have much in the way of historical accuracy as its more Walt Disney than Paul Verhoeven (see the excellent Flesh and Blood for how medievel should be done) but it is impressive. Also on the plus side are strong performances from Gerard Butler (making up for Tomb Raider 2 then) and Billy Connolly. However Frances O'Connor and Paul Walker both are pretty non descript. Paul Walker's character is especially pointless with the story working better if it had been combined if Marek, giving a love triangle and making the finale more dramatic.

Timeline lacks realism. Whether its spotlessly clean castles or thatched roof so thin you can put your hands through, if you have any clue about life in those times you will see how badly inaccurate things are. It is one production where a real archeologist was required as a technical advisor, as the result is about as farcical as the terrible From Hell.

Timeline is an occasionally entertaining mess. In places it works but mostly it flounders in problems of its own making. Whether its poor continuity, historical inaccuracy, over explanation, or plot holes this script has it all (I would love to know what Michael Crichton made of it a being based as it is on one of this novels). The moments of action and the castle siege just aren't enough to save this film. Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner should hang his head in shame especially when you consider he has already made a very good medieval film in Ladyhawke. Timeline is one point in history that is best ignored or forgotten.

There I made it to the end of the review without mentioning David Thewlis’s terrible accent and awful pullover.

Tagline

In 6 hours they'll be history.

Quotes

Rating: 1 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Good but not the best.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 In places goos in others unexceptional.
Features Making of documentary in 3 parts
Featurette
Trailer
Verdict Goodish transfer and sparse extras, but given the film you probably won't care.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home