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TIMELINE

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly
Director: Richard Donner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 115 Minutes
Release Date: April 13, 2004

“The way I see it, we’ve got 650 years of knowledge on these guys. If we put our heads together, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get out of here and to home in 20 minutes.”

Film ***

Blending in two different genres into one movie is a task that is rarely accomplished with flying colors. Michael Crichton, who wrote the original novels for Jurassic Park and The Lost World, was able to pen a story that mixed the two specific elements, that of time traveling and medieval swordplay. The result is Timeline, and the novel has been given an appropriate cinematic translation by none other than Richard Donner, director of Superman and the Lethal Weapon movies.

This represents, I think, one of the best recent examples of pure movie escapist fun, just as long as you don't try to think too hard, such is the case with almost every other movie about time traveling. Each movie seems to include their own list of rules and gimmicks. Once the rules of time traveling are gone over and our heroes make their journey to the past, the movie then starts to kick into high gear.

The story opens on an archeological site, where a group of archeology students from Yale, including Chris (Paul Walker), Andre (Gerard Butler) and Kate (Frances O'Connor) are studying artifacts at the site of La Roque, a 14th century French castle from the Middle Ages. When they discover an artifact with writing on it from none other than their professor and Chris' father, Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly), they don't know what to think. Before long, the students are given the answer surrounding the professor's disappearance when they're brought to the facility of ITC (International Technology Corporation).

The head of ITC, Doniger (David Thewlis), reveals to the worried students that he has discovered a process for conducting time traveling. The device was intentionally designed for faxing items from one continent to the next. The initial idea was to create a shipping device to put both UPS and FedEx out of business. Instead, a wormhole is discovered which is able to send anything, or anyone, back in time, or in this case, 1357, France. That is specifically where the professor is, and the students agree to risk their lives in a time traveling rescue operation.

As I mentioned earlier, once the time traveling gibberish is explained and the students make their leap back to the 14th century, Timeline really starts to take off. The story provides a nice little twist on the events in time. As it turns out, the group is transported to France on the very day that a brutal battle between the French and the English, which places them in something of a boiling pot. Added to this, they only have six hours to find the professor and get back home.

Another intriguing aspect of Timeline is the fact that there hardly any visual effects displayed in the movie, with the exception of the key time traveling sequences, which is quite a rarity for any movie, let alone an action adventure. The medieval action in the film consists of physical combat and swordplay. The movie's most extravagant moment is that of the climatic battle for the castle La Roque, backed up with catapulting flames of fire, in addition to the use of both flaming and night arrows. It's a rousing closing action number, as well as an impressive looking set.

Timeline is by no means a masterpiece, but it happens to have an adventurous sense about itself, as well as a well paced story that moves the action and events at a terrific level. It's a fine example of what is essentially known as popcorn entertainment, complete with excellent set designs and doses of action and intensity to boot.

Video ****

What we have here is a most superb and stunning presentation for the ages. Paramount has delivered, what I honestly think, is one of their strongest and most visually pleasing anamorphic transfers of recent memory. Not to say that their previous releases have been any less, but only that this is pure top of the line quality which could rank with the very best of Paramount's discs, like Star Trek: Nemesis, for example. The image is nothing but clarity right from scene one, and the sets and scenery of the 1357, France look as incredible and as detailed as can be. What's more night sequences, including the extended climatic battle scene, are handled with stunning quality. No images flaws whatsoever in this presentation. A full screen version is also available, though there's no question that much of the image will suffer.

Audio ****

The only thing to match the stunning video is the equally outstanding power provided by the 5.1 audio track. The sound in the movie is something of a relentless force, meaning that it there is always something in every scene to keep the sharp sound alive and kicking, which is something that this presentation thoroughly demonstrates. And once the action shifts to the medieval times, the sound is super, strong, and never-ending in incredible range. The rousing action that accompanies the latter half of the movie is an example of pure DVD audio magic. Dialogue and music score are, needless to say, handled in a superior level of dynamic range, as well.

Features ***

A good enough level of extras are delivered here, including a 3 part behind the scenes documentary titled "Journey Through Timeline", which covers three stages of the filming of the movie. In addition, there's also a featurette titled "The Textures of Timeline", 2 trailers for the movie, as well as bonus trailers for upcoming Paramount theatrical and DVD video releases.

Summary:

The idea supplied by Michael Crichton and the visual translation provided by Richard Donner result in ultimate movie escapist fun. Timeline is a rousing piece that is sure to thrill those seeking good old fashion adventure entertainment.