Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on April 27th, 2004
When archaeologist Billy Connolly disappears, and his glasses and a parchment with hiswriting on it turn up in a ruins dating back to 1357, son Paul Walker and friends realizesomething weird is going on here. It turns out that weasel entrepreneur David Thewlis hasaccidentally tapped into a wormhole that permits time travel to that area of France, and in thatyear (smack in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War). Walker, Frances O’Connor, GerardButler and others travel back to…rescue Connolly, but are soon caught up in the struggle betweenthe French (the Good Guys) and the English (the Bad Guys).
Think Army of Darkness with all the fun removed, and you’ve got a sense ofTimeline. The time travel aspect strains for verisimilitude, but only winds up making thefilm seem more ridiculous. Why does the wormhole connect only to this one time and place?The question is asked, but never answered. The opening act is full-on techno-thriller, and thepretend realism of that genre makes the historical cheats in the rest of the film all the moreobvious. For some reason, everyone speaks modern, rather than middle, English in 1357, and ourprinciple French character (Anna Friel) speaks like a graduate from the Inspector ClouseauSchool of Linguistic Accuracy. The characters are, with the exception of Butler, a whiny,hysterical bunch, and Paul Walker is running hard for title of Blandest Leading Man inContemporary Film. The plot is drearily predictable. The saving grace is the large-scale battlesequence. It ain’t The Return of the King, but it does provide some satisfying old-schooldestruction.
This is a film that needs all the help it can get, in terms of pumping up the energy andspectacle, and the audio doesn’t quite come through in the clinch. There is one very startling useof the rear speakers, guaranteed to jerk you out of your seat, but there could have been a lot moreof this kind of thing. The music sounds fine, but there are all sorts of missed opportunitiesfor good surround effects (the scene with the rushing river being just one example). Everythingis clear, but there is very little sense of an environment.
The picture, on the other hand, is simply beautiful. There is no grain, or edge enhancement.The colours, contrasts and flesh tones are damn near perfect, and the blacks are profound,without ever creating murky images. The night scenes are particularly well rendered. The 2.25:1anamorphic widescreen image is sharp enough to cut flesh. Whatever else one might say aboutthe film, the DVD is a joy to behold.
What, no commentary? Nope. Instead, the principle extra is “Journey ThroughTimeline,” a three part making-of featurette, which, promotional role notwithstanding,has plenty of good behind-the-scenes footage. Part 1 — “Setting Time”– jumps back and forthbetween the Quebec woods on the last day of the shoot, and the ITC set. Part 2 — “Nights of LaRoque” — is an in-depth look at how the big battle was shot. Part 3 — “Making Their OwnHistory” — is the slightest section, dealing mainly with the wrapping of the film and muchhorsing around. The other featurette — “The Textures of Timeline” — covers costume andproduction design, FX, music, and other technical aspects not touched on in the other piece. Allof this in about 18 minutes. The only other extras are two theatrical trailers and previewstriggered when the menu loads. Select the circle in the middle of the menu (which has ananimated and scored main screen) and you switch the look from 1357 to 2003.
This feels in many ways like a movie that could easily have been made in 1962. So it’ssomething of a time traveller itself. For all its flaws, it’s not entirely dire, but as Crichtonadaptations go, this is more Sphere or Congo than Jurassic Park orThe Andromeda Strain.
Special Features List
- “Journey Through Timeline” 3-Part Documentary
- “The Textures of Timeline” Featurette
- Theatrical Trailers