Timeline is a 2003 movie about a group of archaeologists who travel in time back to 1357 France and get caught up in the 100 Years War. You probably haven’t heard about it and that’s because it’s a middling film — I was vaguely entertained and had lots of questions. Really, it’s in no way worthy of a detailed review. But you know what? It’s going to get one — well, a recap. Why? Two reasons:
#1: Both Trystan and I keep running into the same problem: lately we’ve been seeming to watch historical movies or TV shows only to discover not all of them are really worthy of a review! At some point, we gotta do something with these bottom-feeders other than just stick them in another “Oh the Bad Movies” post.
Because there really isn’t anything to talk about other than the plot, this is going to be a spoiler-y recap. If you care about the plot of a movie that’s gotten 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, then please avoid this until you’ve seen the film.
Billy Connolly is a wacky archaeologist working on a dig at a medieval castle in France. His son, Paul Walker (sorry, few actors are going to get character names here), wants to branch out from being Fast and Furious so is visiting his dad, but thinks archaeology is lame.
Why’s he hanging around? Because he’s got the hots for archaeology student Kate, aka Fanny Price (actress Frances O’Connor, but she’s Fanny Price to me!). But don’t get your heart set on her, Paul. Fanny will always choose archaeology over you, we are told.
Assisting Connolly in leading the dig is My Boyfriend Gerard Butler, who really should join the SCA because he spends his free time practicing longsword and bow-and-arrow skills. He’s WAAAAAAY into this medieval crap.
Connolly goes away for a few days, and so ends any actual contribution he has to this film. Oh, he’ll show up on screen many more times, but every time he is cowering in corner uselessly.
The Scooby Gang makes an amazing discovery — a roll of 14th-century writings with a note in the margins saying “Help me!” signed by Connolly. We know it’s not a prank because our Resident Tech Geek tested the ink, and apparently carbon dating can give you a specific year on ink?
The Scooby Gang finds out that Connolly has gone to soon-to-be-revealed-as Evil Corporation. They head there to find out what’s up.
The directors of Evil Corp. explain that they’ve made a time travel machine. Well, more specifically, they’ve made a machine that opens a wormhole to 1357 France. Specifically, “Castlegard,” the place the Scooby Gang has been excavating. Connolly went there and hasn’t come back.
The directors of Evil Corporation want the Scooby Gang to go back to rescue Connolly. Everyone is gung ho, except Resident Tech Geek, whose goatee twinges in such a way that he knows this is a Bad Idea, and also François — but François has to go so he can interpret for them.
Evil Corporation also gives them some mercenary types to go along too for protection, with side hushed instructions to kill some guy should they run into him. Evil Corporation gives the Scooby Gang medieval clothes and hustles them into the wormhole machine! Hey, this is a good opportunity for Gerard to take his shirt off!
We wormhole/time travel! We’re in 1357 France! Suddenly out of nowhere, a bunch of English knights turn up and kill one of the mercenary guys. Everyone scatters. Gerard meets someone who is running from the English, who turns out to be (dun dun DUN) A GIRL.
The Scooby Gang heads to Castlegard to find Connolly.
The English take one look at the Scooby Gang and, since, in this movie English = bad and French = good, take them to their evil leader: Michael Sheen.
LUCKILY THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS MIDDLE ENGLISH, SO EVERYONE IS ABLE TO COMMUNICATE JUST FINE. (Seriously. Watch this video if you don’t believe me.) Gerard explains that they’re Scottish. Tony Blair isn’t having any of it, whacks translator François (hope he spoke Middle French, not that it matters any more!), and throws the gang into jail where they discover Connolly, who commences not doing anything other than cowering.
The Scooby Gang decides to escape, and Fanny Price, thinking she’s in some Nickelodeon/”Kid in King Arthur’s Court” movie, announces scrappily* that she will climb out through the thatched roof and let them out since she’s the best climber! She does this, in the process killing a guard. Everyone escapes, except Gerard who spots French Nubby Linen being scrappy* with some English guards and decides to rescue her with his mad SCA-type bow-and-arrow skillz.
*Scrappy girls is also a theme.
Various crap happens. Gerard takes French Nubby Linen back to the French, who are super cool. He ascertains her single-dom.
Gerard discovers that she is Lady Claire, who he knows is going to get killed by the English tonight, thus enraging the French who will storm the English-occupied castle and win it back. He implores her brother to take care of her.
Lots of stuff happens. The Scooby Gang is recaptured by the Evil English, who also recapture French Nubby Linen/Lady Claire. Billy Connolly tries to get them off the hook with the English by promising to make “Greek fire.” Everyone, especially Gerard Butler, is aghast. “GREEK FIRE? YOU PROMISED THEM GREEK FIRE??!!” But no one ever defines WTF Greek fire actually IS.*
*If you care, there’s a Wikipedia article. I don’t care enough to recap it for you.
Tony Blair’s lead henchman turns out to be another time traveller/wormhole-er who got stuck in the past and is pissed about it. He and Gerard Butler get all mano a mano.
Eventually the battle starts. There are some cool shots of fiery arrows crossing each other, plus a lot of yelling of “TREBUCHET!!!” The Greek fire works and Tony Blair is pleased.
Fanny Price and Paul Walker find a secret tunnel from a nearby monastery that leads to the English-occupied castle. Oh they also make out.
They lead a French strike force up into the English stronghold. Lots of swords are whacked. The French win. (I am simplifying things for you. You’re welcome.)
During the battle, Gerard Butler saves Nubby French Linen/Lady Claire, who was recaptured by the English. He decides to stay in 1357 with his new Special Lady Friend.
What’s left of the Scooby Gang (Fanny Price, Paul Walker, and Billy Connolly) get back to the future. Oh right, while they were gone a grenade blew up the time/wormhole machine (don’t ask, it’s a long story). Tech Geek has been alternately battling/working with Evil Corp. to try to repair it. As the Scooby Gang comes back, Professor Lupin (the truly evil one from Evil Corp.) gets sent back in time, right at the end of the battle (glad we’re all on the same timeline here), and is whacked.
We fast forward to everyone back on the dig. Fanny Price has finished excavating a tomb showing a medieval couple, which we now realize is Gerard Butler and French Nubby Linen/Lady Claire. The preposterously clear inscription tells us that they had a long and happy life and named their kids after Fanny Price, Paul Walker, and the long-ago-whacked François.
And now, after watching and writing all of this, I have just discovered that the costume designer is none other than JENNY FUCKING BEAVAN. You know, responsible for such greatness as A Room With a View, Impromptu, Howards End, Jefferson in Paris, Sense and Sensibility, Ever After, Gosford Park, and who recently won an Oscar for Mad Max: Fury Road. My mind is blown!
Please recommend something better for me to watch in the comments!