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Paul Walker as Chris Johnston
Frances O’Connor as Kate Erickson
Gerard Butler as André Marek
Billy Connolly as Professor Edward Johnston
Ethan Embry as David Stern
Anna Friel as Lady Claire
Marton Csokas as Robert de Kere
Michael Sheen as Lord Oliver
Lambert Wilson as Lord Arnaut
Matt Craven as Kramer
David La Haye as Arnaut’s Deputy
Rossif Sutherland as François
David Thewlis as Robert Doniger
Richard Zeman as Oliver’s Lieutenant
Mike Chute as Victor Baretto
Neal McDonough as John Gordon

Timeline is a faithful adaptation of the Michael Crichton novel, but it is an ultimately unmemorable adventure.

Timeline is based on the novel by Michael Crichton.

Chris Johnston is the son of a renowned professor conducting an archeological dig in France. Funded by a technology corporation, Professor Edward has been having remarkable luck finding artifacts thanks mainly to tips given by the company. He goes to the company for answers and promptly disappears. Soon after, Chris, graduate student Kate Erickson, and assistant André Marek discover a note written by the Professor asking for help. The twist is that the note is dated back to the 1350’s.

When Chris and the students demand answers from the company, they get more than they bargained for. They discover that the company has accidentally discovered a means of time travel and that the opening in the past leads to the site in France in the 1350’s. Professor Edward went back in time for a tour and disappeared. The company now needs the help of these experts in order to bring him home.

As the group arrives in the past, they realize that they have arrived in the middle of a war between the French locals and an occupying force of English invaders. That day’s date is the actual climax of the war and Professor Edward is in the middle of it. Soon enough everything that can go wrong does go wrong and a race to save the Professor, escape the hostile English, and get back to the future begins. However, certain bits of information withheld by the company may prove their undoing.

Timeline is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and brief language.

What Worked:
If you’re a fan of the Michael Crichton novel, I think you’ll be pleased with the film adaptation. It has been a while since I read the book, so I can’t comment on how closely it follows the details of the novel. However, the overall plot is pretty much the same. They captured the main elements and feel of the story well.

One of the most impressive things about the movie is the climactic battle. (The fact that this is the main feature of the poster probably makes this apparent.) While it is nowhere near on par with those battles in The Lord Of The Rings, they are probably more realistic. The sight of hundreds of flaming arrows flying through the sky is quite impressive.

Overall, Timeline is an interesting adventure, especially for Michael Crichton fans and history buffs.

What Didn’t Work:
The problems with the movie are pretty much the same problems the original novel had. There are some plot lines that had a lot of potential, but were ultimately cast aside. Then there’s the whole setting. Is medieval France really the most exciting place to set a story? (And in a bizarre twist, the French are actually portrayed as the good guys for once.) There’s also not really any new ground broken in the time travel genre. There are numerous questions about the whole time travel method and they have very little explanation. In fact, the audience is even cheated out of cool time travel effects. In order to go to the past, nothing more happens than the camera zooming in on characters as they scream. Rather disappointing.

While all of the cast play their roles adequately, there’s no breakout cast member. There’s nobody you care for when they’re in peril. There’s nobody that’s really funny, evil, or even convincingly passionate. This movie really needed someone who was a breakout personality and there wasn’t one. Richard Donner, whom I really like as a director, also does a weird thing. He often has his cast yell out lines over each other while in a panic. I suppose this is done in order to make the scenes more realistic and intense. Look at Goonies, Lethal Weapon, or any of this other movies and you’ll see this. It’s the same in Timeline and I found it a little annoying, mainly because it happens often. It’s a nitpick, but there you go.

In the end I found this movie to be similar to another Crichton adaptation, Congo. Both stories made better novels than movies. While Timeline is better than Congo, it’s not a very thrilling techno-thriller either. The lack of a big battle, a breakout cast member, or a groundbreaking story all contribute to making this an unmemorable film.

The Bottom Line:
If you’re looking for a decent action flick, Timeline should fit the bill. It’s especially worth viewing if you read the novel. However, you may find it to be more of a renter than something to go out of your way to see in theaters as it is utterly forgettable after viewing.