Running Time: 116 mins
Having read Michael Crichton's Timeline and enjoyed its kind of Saturday matinee adventures, I was looking forward to the film version. It begins exactly as the novel does. The last scene is the same as in the novel. And, in between, it stays very close to the novel as well. The result is an entertaining adventure in the past and some imagination concerning time travel in the present.
When an archeologist (Billy Connolly) working on the ruins of a 14th century fort and village disappears, especially when a message dated 1357 is discovered, his rather gung-ho son (Paul Walker) and the archeological team (headed by Frances O'Connor and Gerard Butler) are naturally concerned. What they never dreamed was that they would be following the professor within hours back into the 14th century. Not only do they have to find him and bring him home, they have to take an active part in the battle between the English and the French, rescue the Lady Claire (Anna Friel), defeat the English lord (Oliver), confront a scientist who finds himself more at home in medieval France - and get back themselves. Which is - more or less - what they accomplish. The enjoyment is in finding out what is the more and the less.
Michael Crichton's novels are a bit like theme parks (well, of course, Jurassic Park really was one) and this version takes us on a medieval adventure of knights, damsels and battles with 21st century Americans all the while trying to disguise themselves (although it is yet another case of the yanks coming to the rescue of the Europeans!). Even the technological plant where the time machine operates is a different kind of theme park.
Richard Donner (Omen, Lethal Weapon, Maverick, Superman) set out to make a rollicking adventure without pretensions to literate dialogue of method acting. And he has.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.