Timeline is a 2003 American science fiction adventure film directed by Richard Donner and starring Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor, Gerard Butler, Billy Connolly, David Thewlis, and Anna Friel.
A group of archaeologists become trapped in the past when they go there to retrieve a friend. The group must survive in fourteenth century France before they can escape back to the twenty-first century.
Professor Edward Johnston leads an archaeological study of the village of Castlegard, near LaRoque Castle in Dordogne, France, the site of the 1357 hanging of Lady Claire, sister to Arnaut de Cervole. Her martyrdom led France to win the Hundred Years War against the English. Johnston’s team includes Scottish archaeologist André Marek; Johnston’s students Kate Erickson, Josh Stern, and François Dontelle; and his son Chris who is infatuated with Kate. While excavating a nearby monastery, they find a sarcophagus containing the remains of a French knight with a lopped ear, holding the hand of his lady, an unheard-of practice for the time.
Johnston travels to the American headquarters of the ITC Corporation, his project’s sponsor, to inquire whether or not they have tampered with the site. The students later discover a pair of Johnston’s bifocals and a note begging for help, although both date over 600 years old. When the students contact ITC, the company invites them to its headquarters.
There, the team is introduced to ITC president Robert Doniger and vice-president Steven Kramer. Doniger reveals that in the process of developing teleportation technology, they locked onto a stable wormhole to 1357 Castlegard. Johnston was invited to see the past for himself, but his group has not returned, and they want the students to go back in time to locate him. All but Josh volunteer to go.
The volunteers are stripped of all modern technology save for pendant-shaped markers they can use to initiate their return. The students are joined by a security team including ITC’s head of security Frank Gordon and two former military men.
On arrival in 1357, the team finds itself in the path of a young woman chased by English knights; the security men are killed while protecting the group, although one activated his marker shortly after priming a grenade. When his body arrives in the present, the grenade detonates and shatters much of the teleportation device. Josh aids Kramer in making repairs.
The team evades the knights, and the woman leads them to the English-controlled Castlegard. They are captured and brought before Lord Oliver de Vannes and his second in command, DeKere. The team members are stripped of their markers, and de Vannes kills François, believing he is a French spy. The others are imprisoned along with Johnston, who is revealed to have promised de Vannes that he can make Greek fire for the English in exchange for his life. They make their escape but are pursued by the English. Gordon and Johnston are recaptured, while the others make for the monastery, led by the woman.
DeKere reveals himself to Gordon and Johnston as former ITC employee William Decker; he had frequently used the teleportation device, but was not told by ITC that each use damaged his DNA until it was too late, at which point he would die on a return trip. He plans revenge on ITC and kills Gordon. De Vannes orders his knights to march on LaRoque castle, and DeKere brings Johnston along.
At the monastery, Marek, Kate, and Chris meet de Cervole and realize the woman is Lady Claire; they have changed history by saving her. Marek, who has become infatuated with Lady Claire, is given a horse to rescue his friends. Kate and Chris help to swing the upcoming battle in the French’s favour by leading de Cervole’s men through the monastery tunnels they had previously mapped to the castle.
As the battle starts, Marek is captured in his rescue attempt; Lady Claire is also kidnapped. Marek manages to free himself, Lady Claire, and Johnston, while Chris helps de Cervole defeat de Vannes. Enraged, DeKere slashes off Marek’s earlobe, and Marek realizes he is destined to be the knight in the sarcophagus. Marek defeats DeKere, recovers the markers, gives them to the others, and says his goodbyes as he runs off to help the French assure victory and restore history.
As the three returnees activate their markers, in the present Josh and Kramer have finished the repairs after coming to learn that Doniger has attempted to sabotage their attempts; Doniger fears that when the students’ stories become public, ITC will suffer great financial losses. As the machine activates, Doniger races into it, attempting to block the teleportation, but instead he is sent back to 1357, where he arrives outside the castle and is presumably killed by a charging knight.
Chris, Kate, and Johnston safely return. Later, the team returns to the Castlegard ruins, re-examine the sarcophagus, and find that Marek and Lady Claire led a prosperous life after the war and had three children: Christophe, Katherine, and François.
- Paul Walker as Chris Johnston.
- Frances O’Connor as Kate Ericson.
- Gerard Butler as André Marek.
- Billy Connolly as Professor Edward A. Johnston.
- David Thewlis as Robert Doniger.
- Anna Friel as Lady Claire.
- Neal McDonough as Frank Gordon.
- Matt Craven as Steven Kramer.
- Ethan Embry as Josh Stern.
- Michael Sheen as Lord Oliver de Vannes.
- Lambert Wilson as Lord Arnaud de Cervole.
- Marton Csokas as Sir William De Kere/William Decker.
- Rossif Sutherland as François Dontelle.
- Patrick Sabongui as Jimmy Gomez.
- Steve Kahan as Baker.
The battle sequences used medieval reenactors. Richard Donner limited the use of CGI in the film as much as possible.
Composer Jerry Goldsmith, who had previously collaborated with Donner on The Omen, completed a score for the film – his final score before his death in 2004 – but it was replaced by a different score composed by Brian Tyler after Donner was forced to re-cut the film at the insistence of Sherry Lansing, the then-head of Paramount Pictures. However, both Goldsmith and Tyler’s scores were released on CD.
Timeline performed poorly at the box office, only recouping $43 million worldwide from a budget of $80 million.
- Michael Crichton took the unusual step of offering up the movie rights for free, provided the movie entered into production immediately.
- Crichton had a back-end deal set up on the basis that his script be used for this movie.
- Ironically, Crichton ended up hating the finished movie.
- Michael Crichton, author of the same-titled book on which this movie was based, disliked this movie so much that he refused to licence any more movies based on his novels.
- Nobody would gain the movie rights to a Michael Crichton book until Steven Spielberg, long-time friend of Crichton, bought the rights to “Pirate Latitudes” after Crichton’s death.
- The battle of Castlegard is not an actual historical event.
- However, the crew of the movie visited various European castles from around that period (the late 1300s) to make the castles and towns look as realistic as possible.
- The problem of language is ignored in this movie, having a French-speaking character.
- In the novel, however, it is stated that, as in reality, people in 1357 did not speak modern English or French, but Occitane, a language in which Andre Marek (Gerard Butler) is fluent, according to the book.
- Also, the novel describes some high-tech translator devices the characters put in their ears, which also is absent in this movie.
- During the siege of the Castle at La Roque, you can briefly see a full moon in the sky.
- 04 April 1357 was indeed the night of a full moon.
- David Thewlis met partner Anna Friel during the production of this movie, and they have been partners ever since.
- They are the second couple to have met on the set of a Michael Crichton adaptation, the first being Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum.
- In the DVD special extras, a young and inconspicuous John Cena can be seen before his big break as a pro wrestler.
Production & Filming Details
- Richard Donner.
- Michael Aguilar … co-producer.
- Kevin de la Noy … co-producer.
- Richard Donner … producer.
- Don Granger … executive producer.
- Derek Hoffman … associate producer.
- Gary Levinsohn … executive producer.
- Michael Ovitz … executive producer.
- Brian Read … associate producer.
- Lauren Shuler Donner … producer.
- Jim Van Wyck … producer.
- Michael Crichton … (novel).
- Jeff Maguire … (screenplay).
- George Nolfi … (screenplay).
- Brian Tyler.
- Caleb Deschanel.
- Richard Marks.
- Paramount Pictures (present).
- Mutual Film Company (present).
- Donners’ Company.
- Cobalt Media Group (present).
- Artists Production Group (APG).
- H2L Media Group.
- Ascot Elite Entertainment Group (2004) (Switzerland) (theatrical).
- Concorde Filmverleih (2004) (Germany) (theatrical).
- Constantin-Film (2004) (Austria) (theatrical).
- Eagle Pictures (2004) (Italy) (theatrical).
- Entertainment Film Distributors (2003) (UK) (theatrical).
- GAGA (2004) (Japan) (theatrical) (as GAGA Communications).
- Humax Pictures (2004) (Japan) (theatrical) (as GAGA-Humax).
- Paramount Pictures (2003) (Canada) (theatrical).
- Paramount Pictures (2003) (USA) (theatrical).
- TriPictures (2004) (Spain) (theatrical).
- Umut Sanat (2003) (Turkey) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Argentina) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Australia) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Belgium) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Brazil) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (France) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Israel) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Mexico) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Netherlands) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Norway) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Sweden) (theatrical).
- United International Pictures (UIP) (2004) (Singapore) (theatrical).
- Warner Bros. Turkey (2003) (Turkey) (theatrical).
- Argentina Video Home (2004) (Argentina) (DVD).
- Argentina Video Home (2004) (Argentina) (VHS).
- Cobalt Media Group (2003) (Non-US) (all media).
- Nelonen (2009) (Finland) (TV).
- Odeon (2003) (Greece) (all media).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2004) (Finland) (DVD).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2004) (Netherlands) (DVD) (VHS).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2004) (Sweden) (DVD).
- Paramount Home Entertainment (2003) (USA) (DVD).
- SBS6 (2006) (Netherlands) (TV).
- VT4 (2007) (Belgium) (TV).
- Release Date: 19 November 2003 (Westwood, California, US; Premiere).
- Running Time: 116 minutes.
- Rating: 12A.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.