ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  richard donner

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  sci-fi

LENGTH  -  116 minutes

RELEASED  -  26 november 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  paramount pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  timeline

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $80,000,000
timeline - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from timeline at

buy the dvd from timeline at

a group of archaeological students become trapped in the past when they go there to retrieve their professor.

after the movie had to be re-cut, jerry goldsmith's score had already been produced to fit the old version, so with goldsmith busy on another project, the film was re-scored by brian tyler.


picture from timeline

picture from timeline

picture from timeline


one out of four possible stars

The merits of Paul Walker's meager acting talents aside, there is something quite unsatisfying about seeing a film where surprises don't exist and the whole experience of getting to the end credits seems to be one constant thought of, "yeah, I knew that was going to happen." While some films can exist with their predictability intact and still survive the "interest" test, Timeline is completely devoid of any sort of plot ingenuity and it's difficult to understand how the filmmakers would make such obvious decisions regarding plot. Each and every turn of the story can easily be seen from a mile away because of the very nature of the film - an action adventure piece - requires that the audience feel the peril dripping like sweat on the actors' foreheads.

But beyond a fine sense of costuming and set design from the crew, the film lacks what should be a strong grip of fear for the characters in a perilous time-travel film. Viewers will probably know where each of the actors is going to end up by the end of the film before the second act (around thirty minutes into the film) has even commenced. And because the cast is not, overall, a stellar one, the film cannot survive on a plot where the turns are so obvious. Add to that weakness the plethora of stinky action movie dialogue (all the standard cliché phrases litter this film) and the overall picture becomes an exercise in keeping one's interest until the closing credits.

Round about the third act, it seems as though the filmmakers would have done well to wrap the feature up, thereby compressing the running time to about ninety minutes. But as the film nearly hits the two hour mark, the third act really becomes ponderous. It becomes a waiting game for the credits. Excepting a well-rounded performance by Scot Gerard Butler, who plays archaeologist "André Marek," the cast possesses a rather bland group of lead performances, whose lack of wit is compounded by some truly dreadful dialogue. The idea of time travel being such a fantastical idea requires that the audience make some quite large leaps of faith in order to believe the ideas put forth in this film, but some scenes become nearly laughable.

When the scientists who sent Paul Walker's archeologist father ("Professor Edward Johnston" played by the lyrical Billy Connolly) into the past decide to send Walker and his buddies back in time to rescue the professor, only a small part of the science behind the "magic" of time travel is explained. And at one point, Walker's character, "Chris Johnston," says something to the effect of, "I don't care about the specifics about the technology, I just want to get my father back." This sentence cuts off any insight into the science the audience might have received, even if its delivery might have been rather staid (the actors who play the physicists in the film are rather....staid).

If anything, the script could have garnered some interest if further discourse on the specifics of time travel had been revealed. But perhaps expanding on the information to the audience would have delayed the ending of the film, pushing it to beyond the two hour mark. Which might have been a larger error, given the mindless mentality of most of the film. It's a chase movie that takes place in the 1300's and instead of cars and guns, the characters have horses and swords. And some exciting fighting and battle sequences do occur during the film and if it can be believed, those sequences are quite well done and take some of the creative weight off the shoulders of the actors.

If the characters would have been a more sagacious group of people, the action sequences would not have been so important. But witnessing giant "trebuchets" launch fiery balls into the sky at a giant stone castle and seeing them explode upon impacting the stones is probably one of the most interesting parts of the film. Sword wielding knights, lithe archers, and armed infantry clash for some gritty and intense battle scenes and the cinematographer, fight choreographer, and costumer should feel proud of their accomplishment. Fourteenth century France is realistically depicted and despite lapses in the script, what the audience sees on the screen is without fault.

But when it comes to the real interest of the film, or what should be the focus for audience members - the characters - the film really falls flat. Paul Walker just doesn't possess a convincing air about him when he's on screen and it's hard to take the actor seriously when he dons the persona of Chris Johnston. This problem is compounded by the fact that he has no romantic chemistry with Frances O'Connor, who plays her role as intrepid archaeologist "Kate Errickson" with aplomb, but fails to make a tangible connection with Walker. One of the most important ideas of the film is that of love (and what people will do for the sake of it) and in their relationship, this idea just doesn't ring true.

Elements such as soundtrack score are competently achieved, with the busy and young Brian Tyler completing a score that won't linger in the memories of audience members, but that serves the story extremely well. The cinematography, headed by director of photography, Caleb Deschanel, is aided by the natural beauty of the many forest locations used on the production (most of the film was shot in Canada) works to the film's benefit. As stated before, the costuming and set decoration are excellent (in both the present and in medieval France). Overall, the production values of the film are very high, but where the film fails mightily is in its characters and story.

It can be argued that an action film doesn't need an interesting story, only a serviceable plot, but the actors just can't complete with the lackluster dialogue and plot twists. But perhaps "twists" is too strong a word. Plot "curves" might be more appropriate. Timeline is interesting to look at but a drag to keep up with. Stick to Michael Crichton's novel and you'll appreciate the story and characters to a more rewarding degree.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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