Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Time Bandits




Directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam and Michael Palin, Time Bandits is the story of a boy who goes on an adventure with a group of time-traveling dwarves where he travels to different periods in time. The film is an exploration into the world of fantasy and man trying to fight the impossible as it is the first part of a trilogy of films about dreamers. Starring John Cleese, Sean Connery, Michael Palin, Shelley Duvall, Ralph Richardson, Ian Holm, Katherine Helmond, Peter Vaughn, and David Warner. Time Bandits is a funny yet enjoyable fantasy film from Terry Gilliam.

A young boy named Kevin (Craig Warnock) enjoys reading adventures about all sorts of things while his parents (David Daker and Sheila Fearn) are more obsessed with household appliances and TV shows. One day, a gang of time traveling dwarf bandits come out of his closet looking for a time hole as they carry a map that get them through each time hole in order to steal riches from different periods of time. Leading the pack is Randall (David Rappaport) as he admits to stealing the map from the Supreme Being (Ralph Richardson and the voice of Tony Jay) as Kevin finds himself being part of the adventure. There, Kevin and the bandits land in the Napoleonic wars where the bandits find themselves having to entertain Napoleon Bonaparte (Ian Holm) where they successfully steal some treasure.

After finding themselves in the Middle Ages where they meet Robin Hood (John Cleese) where they end up having their take being given to the poor, Randall and the bandits ponder where to go next. Unaware that a sorcerer known as Evil (David Warner) is watching them, the bandits continue their journey where they’re being chased by the Supreme Being as Kevin finds himself in Mycenaean Greece where he saved the life of King Agamemnon (Sean Connery). Being happy around King Agamemnon, Kevin hopes to stay there until the bandits finally appear to steal more riches and take Kevin where they find themselves in the 20th Century on a ship. Randall believes that through the map that there’s a place into the unknown that can lead them to something that is considered to be the most fantastic object of the world. Kevin reluctantly joins them where they encounter more trouble where Kevin realizes what is going on forcing he and the bandits to fight Evil.

The film is essentially the story about a young boy who joins a group of time-traveling dwarves into an adventure into different periods of time where they steal riches while going after something that is to be even better than riches unaware that they’re watched by an evil sorcerer. That’s pretty much what the story is about though it is a film that is about a boy trying to find a place where he belongs as he feels out of place with the modern world as his parents are just obsessed with the technologies of the times. Throughout this adventure with this gang of dwarves that likes to steal and do things, this young boy would encounter worlds that are very different from the modern world as he feels like he belongs there.

The screenplay by Terry Gilliam and his Monty Python cohort Michael Palin does have a traditional structure into the motivations of how young Kevin sees things throughout his journey. Notably as the journeys he takes would play into his development and understanding of the world itself. He enjoys going back in time but he doesn’t like what the dwarves do as things get more complicated in the third act when the dwarves begin to doubt Randall over his obsession with going into this mysterious world. Particularly as they’re all unaware that they’re being watched by this evil sorcerer who wants the map they can carry to spread evil into the world. While the script is essentially a fantasy story, it’s also very comical since a lot of the situations are absurd and things do very silly such as the fact that the characters often drop in on a couple (Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall) and ruining their moment.

Terry Gilliam’s direction is definitely big in terms of its presentation where it is all about these elaborate set pieces, different locations, and all sorts of hi-jinks the characters encounter. Through some amazing compositions where Gilliam puts a lot into the frame in order to establish the world the characters encounter. He also makes sure that it’s about this group of dwarves and this young boy while he does take his time to establish what the evil sorcerer wants to do. The direction also includes some vast wide shots of some of these elaborate set pieces where things often feel offbeat such as the climatic world in the third act. Still, Gilliam manages to find a way to keep things offbeat in its humor and intentions while creating something that can appeal to a young audience. Overall, Gilliam creates a fantastic film that plays up to world of imagination and the yearn to escape from the doldrums of the modern world.

Cinematographer Peter Bizou does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the very sunny and vast look of the King Agamemnon sequence to the more dreary look of the dark world that the sorcerer lives in. Editor Julian Doyle does wonderful work with the editing by creating some unique rhythms for the film’s action scenes along with some stylish slow-motion cuts for some of its intense moments. Production designer Milly Burns and art director Norman Garwood do amazing work with the vast set design that is created from the look of King Agamemnon’s palace, the castle where Napoleon is being entertained, and the dark underworld where the sorcerer lives in.

Costume designer James Acheson, with additional work from Hazel Cote, does terrific work with the costumes to capture the many different periods from the robes of King Agamemnon, the look of Robin Hood, and uniform worn by Napoleon. Hair and makeup work by Maggie Weston and Elaine Carew is superb for the look of some of the characters including the evil sorcerer that is over the top. The sound work of Allen Hurd is very good for the atmosphere that is created in parts of the films including the party scene at King Agamemnon’s hall. The music by Mike Moran is a delight to hear not just for its bombastic orchestral score but also for its playfulness as it serves as a great accompaniment to the film’s humorous moments. The music also includes a song by one of the film’s executives producers in George Harrison that plays up to the film’s whimsical charm.

The film’s cast is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features some noteworthy small roles from Jim Broadbent as a game show host, Peter Vaughn as an ogre named Winston, Katherine Helmond as the ogre’s wife, David Daker and Sheila Fearn as Kevin’s parents, and Michael Palin and Shelley Duvall as a loving couple often interrupted by the appearances of the dwarves. Other appearances that are definitely played for laughs include Ian Holm as Napoleon Bonaparte and John Cleese as a somewhat dim-witted Robin Hood. Sean Connery is superb as King Agamemnon where he displays a great sense of prestige in his role. David Warner is terrific as the sorcerer Evil who is very over-the-top while Ralph Richardson is wonderful as the very witty Supreme Being.

The performances by the dwarves in Tiny Ross, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis, Malcolm Dixon, and Kenny Baker are definitely amazing to watch as well as Jack Rappaport as the conniving leader of the gang in Randall. Finally, there’s Craig Warnock in a marvelous performance as Kevin who is intrigued by the world of adventure and imagination as he deals with his journey as well as the evil forces that he later has to fight.

Time Bandits is an extraordinary yet witty film from Terry Gilliam. Armed with a great ensemble cast and amazing set pieces, the film is definitely among one of Gilliam’s best films. Notably as it’s also a very accessible film that offers something more to a wide audience including children. In the end, Time Bandits is a whimsical yet adventurous film from Terry Gilliam.

Terry Gilliam Films: Jabberwocky - Brazil - (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) - (The Fisher King) - 12 Monkeys - Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - The Brothers Grimm - (Tideland) - The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus - (The Zero Theorem) - (The Auteurs #38: Terry Gilliam)

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