TV advert director Toby Grisoni (Adam Driver) is struggling for inspiration on his chaotic film set. Surrounded by a squabbling crew, he is reminded of his first student film about Don Quixote. Venturing to a nearby village, he finds that the intervening years have not been kind to Javier (Jonathan Pryce), its leading man. Fully believing himself to be the real Don Quixote, Javier immediately sets about dragging Toby into his delusionary adventures as the fairytale knight.
…seemingly forever trapped in development hell, this visionary director’s film is now finally ready to be seen.
For a film seemingly forever trapped in development hell, ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ has long cast a shadow over Director Terry Gilliam’s catalogue. With multiple cast changes and several budgetary collapses, this visionary director’s film is now finally ready to be seen.
Mixing together both fantasy and reality, Gilliam’s latest film has much in common with his earlier movie ‘The Fisher King’. Both feature reluctant squires in the form of Jeff Bridges and Adam Driver, who are resistant to the fantasy world presented to them by Jonathan Pryce and Robin Williams. That said, whereas the ‘Fisher King’ has a taunt timeline and the magnetising presence of Robin Williams, ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ does not.
Rambling and episodic, Gilliam’s new movie instead shares much with Cervantes’s novel that its based on. Like its wandering knight, the story stumbles through its scenes as Quixote tries to sniff out adventure at every turn. Lurching at a big canvas, the film’s visuals do not disappoint and the way that the movie is realised is very much quintessentially Gilliam. As you might expect, giants, princesses and bawdy medieval goings-on pepper each scene as Adam Driver’s knees comically scrape the ground on his diminutive donkey.
In fact, in terms of the acting both Pryce and Driver are excellent in their respective rolls as Quixote and Toby. Given the passing of time, their casting definitely exceeds the hand full of scenes of Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp in ‘Lost In la Mancha’. Driver in particular gets to show an increasing range of skills away from Star Wars and Pryce is by turn dependable and also electrically whimsical, wringing every consonant dry of potential meaning.
However in the end, what you are left with is the plot. With its long running time and meandering scenes, ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ feels like a sprawling patchwork that could have easily shed 45 minutes or more. Whereas the first act is reasonably crisp and on point, its later over long fantasy sequences tug at both your patience and interest.
More watchable his ‘Brazil’ remake (‘The Zero Theorem’), Gilliam’s latest nestles in nicely between the charms of ‘The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus’ and his ‘Baron Munchausen’. Like Munchausen, it’s over long but still undeniably Gilliam-esque in the way that it pokes fun at its assembled players – and for that reason alone we should all rejoice at Gilliam’s return. By lancing this film that nearly got away from him, it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with next.