Adventure in Ye Olde France
Main Cast: Gerard Butler, Billy Connelly, Frances O’Connor, Paul Walker
Director: Richard Donner
In general, I liked the works of Michael Crichton. He told good stories, threw in some fun science fiction and kept things moving. The movies made from his books have tended to do the same and again, I’m a fan. Even of ones like Sphere, that got panned by other critics. And so it goes with Timeline, a time travel romp through the Middle Ages.
Timeline focuses on a group of archeologists excavating the ruins of a medieval French city. Castlegard was destroyed by fire in 1357 and the team, led by Professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connelly) has been contracted by ITC, a rather mysterious corporation, to complete the excavation. Suspicious of the guarded company, Johnston goes to visit and disappears. His team, comprised of students Kate (Frances O’Connor), David (Ethan Embry), Francois (Rossif Sutherland) and Andre Marek (Gerard Butler), along with Johnston’s mostly useless son Chris (Paul Walker) mount a rescue to the corporate headquarters of ITC and stumble into a grand, time traveling adventure.
Yes, that summary is brief indeed. But the hows and whys and whosits of getting the team back to 1357 France aren’t important – it’s what happens when they get there and their effect on history that matters and makes up the bulk of the story (and all of the fun). The team finds themselves hip-deep in a time and place where the value of human life was extremely low. Each is called upon to use the skills and knowledge they’ve gained through the excavation of Castlegard to try and save the professor and make it out alive. Most find themselves petrified and appalled at the notion of being stuck in such a brutal time and place. All but Marek, who seems not only comfortable but quite well suited to the time period.
Timeline is really nothing more elaborate than a basic time travel story and loads of grand medieval fighting. There’s gritty, grimy olde tyme villages with French and Roman soldiers decked out in armor and terrorizing the peasants, there’s fun set pieces depicting the buildings and other intricacies of Castleguard and there’s a whole lot of peril, damsels in distress, secret passageways and other skullduggery to keep us entertained. Once we get to Castlegard it’s really quite a bit of fun. Sure, you need to put your disbelief high, high on a shelf somewhere, but for an action/adventure director Richard Donner pulls out the stops and creates a lot of fun.
The actors aren’t really expected to do all that much, but they perform adequately. Most taxed is likely Gerard Butler who needs to be passionate enough about history to make his choices and decisions in Castlegard feel appropriate. Walker and O’Connor form the requisite couple. Their portion of the film is sappy and unnecessary, but isn’t so egregious as to make me shun them completely. Embry, Sutherland and Connelly have relatively small parts, though Connelly’s is a pivotal one.
The real stars of Timeline are certainly the setting, effects and action sequences, and with those the movie succeeds in allowing us to fall into this world for a while, enjoy the ride and get out without using too terribly much of our brain. It’s a popcorn movie, through and through, but a pretty fun one. Fans of Gerard Butler will love it – he’s on full display – and anyone looking for a quick paced action/adventure that won’t hold up to rigorous scientific scrutiny should give it a watch. Made in 2003, this period piece has aged well. 4 stars out of 5.
You can usually find Sue watching dysfunctional family indie dramas in order to make her own household seem normal. She is the Editorial Manager at Silver Beacon Marketing and an aspiring Crazy Cat Lady.