Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Time-travel movies have always been popular, and Timeline is one of the better adventure films I've seen. It runs on a pretty standardized plot but has a great cast and some truly fantastic battle sequences. The film involves a series of young archeologists excavating French/England ruins in the hopes of discovering more about the uncertain time period. They've been receiving hints from their corporate sponsor on where to station digs, in each occurrence turning up fantastic archeological finds. Unwilling to believe this is mere chance or a result of conclusive historical research, their leading professor travels to headquarters in order to discern what's really going on. Two days later a cave-in reveals to his students a room that's been sealed for 600 years. Inside they find a bifocal lens matching the professor's prescription and a message pleading "Help!" in his handwriting.
Chris, the professor's adult son, threatens ITC with an investigation unless they cooperate, and their sponsors reveal the secret. While attempting to perfect the teleporting of solid objects, they inadvertently discovered the secret to time-travel. The professor insisted on being sent back to the year 1357 in order to gain a first-hand account of the 100-year war. But he didn't come back. The archeologists, Chris, and a team of marines are to be deported back in time to recover him. The only problem? They're being transported into the center of one of the key battles between the two dominating nations fighting for superiority... and if they don't make their deadline, could be trapped inside of history forever. The plot is complicated with the budding romance between Chris (Paul Walker) and Kate Ericson (Frances O'Conner). The tale is basically a suspenseful period film with epic battle scenes, narrow escapes, and some historical information thrown out when necessary.
For audiences seeking genuine thrills without an overdose of sexuality, Timeline more than fits the bill. From beginning to end we're kept on the edge of our seats, becoming involved with the characters and situations. The single problem with the extensive action sequences is the depth of the plot itself, which doesn't allow very much background into the characters themselves. Although much-simplified from the best-selling novel on which it's based, the story still feels in need of more character development. Even so, there are some valuable moral lessons engrained in the storyline. The draw for the historical timeline for one of the archeologists is the fact that life was different, and men had honor and virtue on their side. These modern men have scruples about killing people, even in self-defense, and show repentance for their wrong actions. There's also a mildly religious element to the medieval battles. However... audiences should also be prepared for brutal war violence and some strong profanity. Christians in particular won't like the emphasis used on exclaiming Jesus' name, nor the f-word that pops up unexpectedly. The violence is standard to films of this genre; lots of men being impaled with swords or shot with arrows. Violence has become fairly standardized in PG13 films, and most people know what they're in for. It's no worse here than Lord of the Rings, but the profane language will put the movie on skids for many families seeking honest entertainment prior to the Christmas holidays. Which really is too bad because despite the plot holes, the film has an excellent cast (including faces from Middle-earth, British drama, and future musical productions) and never a dull moment.