from Film Forum, 12/04/03
Based on the novel by Michael Crichton, Timeline pits selfish scientists against young and attractive archaeologists who have no reservations about time travel. Paul Walker (The Fast and the Furious) and Frances O'Connor (Mansfield Park) star as the would-be heroes who are sent back to the 14th century, smack dab into the 100-year feudal war of France and England, where they try to rescue their professor without fouling up history's established path. While they are there, some technical difficulties back in the "transporter room" call into question whether they will ever return to their homes in time.
According to critics, the film has problems that short-circuit the whole affair.
"Timeline isn't a particularly good movie," says Bob Smithouser (Plugged In). "Lovers of time-travel tales may find Timeline reasonably entertaining, but the more they ponder the before/after paradoxes, the more plot holes and logical inconsistencies crop up. Those shortcomings, aggravated by intense violence and offensive language, make Timeline a Thanksgiving turkey."
"Timeline was a rather enjoyable novel," says Michael Elliott (Movie Parables). "It has now become an almost intolerable action/adventure movie. Surprisingly, there seems to have been little attempt to elevate the film to the level of its source material. Logic, character development, and a smoothly flowing narrative are elements which must have been deemed superfluous by the filmmakers because they've left them out of the final product."
Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily) says, "The action won't bring audiences to the edge of their seats, but it's functional, and the sets and costumes aren't bad. The storytelling just doesn't pack an emotional punch."
Brett Willis (Christian Spotlight) says, "Many plot points and technical items cannot be adequately explained and therefore seem simplistic; the characters cannot be fully developed; and some character actions (like the students' immediate willingness to be flung into the past) seem as hokey as those in a 1950s sci-fi film."
Contrary to Smithouser, Elliott, Vaughn, and Willis, Movieguide's critic says it is "tighter and improved over the Crichton novel in many ways … a thrilling experience for teenage to adult audiences. Feeling much shorter than its two hour length, Timeline proves the saying: Time flies when you're having fun!"
Meanwhile, mainstream critics are counting the film as one of the year's biggest failures.