Cert 15 Stars 3
Former Monty Python animator turned Hollywood director Terry Gilliam has realised his longstanding dream of adapting the four hundred year old novel Don Quixote, and though always watchable this fantasy comic adventure feels more a gentle valedictory lap over familiar turf than something necessary or groundbreaking.
It’s a loose modern day take on the famous story of an aged and deluded medieval knight who goes on a quest to re-establish chivalry in the world and ends up jousting at windmills thinking them to be giants.
Jonathan Pryce stars as a deranged Spanish shoemaker who’s convinced he’s the real Quixote, and drags Adam Driver’s obnoxious advertising executive on a quest, as ‘Quixote’ mistakenly believes he’s his trusted squire. Sancho Panza.
Veteran Pryce worked with Gilliam in the director’s finest film, Brazil, way back in 1985, and Driver is best known as the villainous Kylo Ren in the recent Star Wars films. Both actors were nominated for the best actor Oscar this year, though understandably not for this.
Nevertheless they’re an entertaining bickering pair and the wonderful costumes, Iberian landscapes, and terrific interiors such as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, make for a handsome film.
But the relatively minor budget exacerbates a surprising lack of the inventive visual flourish which marks Gilliam’s best work.
Dogged by repeated failure to secure funding and then a court case, this film has been 25 years in the making, and you’d imagine after all this time co-writer Gilliam would have a more polished script.
Instead we have a familiar collision of glorious fantasy and ugly reality, with added asides on old age, the need for romanticism and a throwaway rant against political correctness.
2002’s documentary Lost in La Mancha captured Gilliam’s previous disastrous attempt at adapting this material, and sadly that film is more fun and affecting. Meanwhile Gilliam, much like his hero Quixote, now feels a man out of time.