Title – The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)
Director – Terry Gilliam (Brazil)
Cast – Adam Driver, Jonathan Pryce, Olga Kurylenko, Stellan Skarsgård, Joana Ribeiro
Plot – Film director Toby (Driver) begins reminiscing of the old times and soon finds himself on a wild adventure with a man who starred in his student film (Pryce) who is convinced he is in fact the fabled Don Quixote.
“We become what we hold on to”
Review by Eddie on 04/10/2019
There’s no doubt in my mind that Terry Gilliam’s fabled 29 year journey to bring The Man Who Killed Don Quixote to the big screen is more intriguing than what we have sadly got hear as an end product, as while Gilliam’s oddball adventure features all of his usual kooky eccentricities and wild visuals, there’s something alarmingly amiss in this messy and lethargic trip into the mind of madness.
That we have any cinematic version of Gilliam’s long time pet project is quite the feat of moviemaking and for anyone that laid witness to the incredibly eye-opening documentary Lost in La Mancha, that offered a behind the scenes look of Gilliam’s first cursed attempt at bringing this tale to life, it will be a pleasure to see the credits begin to roll here but that excitement and anticipation soon gives way to a sad realisation that it once more feels like the best of Gilliam has long since disappeared, with nothing more than pale imitations left in its stead, although thankfully for all this is a huge step up from Gilliam’s last feature misfire The Zero Theorem.
The Terry Gilliam of the 80’s and early/mid 90’s would’ve made an amazing version of this tale, that sees Adam Driver’s arrogant and lost filmmaker Toby go on a wild journey with Jonathan Pryce’s delusional cobbler turned madman that believes wholeheartedly that he is the esteemed Don Quixote incarnate, born to live a life of immortality, upholding chivalry and ridding the world of bad guys and giants but the older more self-parodying filmmaker we have at present is unable to draw out the films potential in a meaningful way here.
Don Quixote is a film with messages, being true to one’s self, living out your dreams and doing the right thing etc. but none of those themes have time too breath here despite the films overly generous two hour plus runtime and while they play out amongst zany Gilliamism’s such as medieval dressing terrorists or off-kilter protagonists, nothing here feels fully formed or that imaginative to make the films cold and tiresome scenarios work out to great effect.
You can’t help but feel for Driver and Pryce who do a lot of heavy lifting for the film, with both actors giving it a red hot crack but neither of the two get gifted characters that are overly endearing, with Toby mostly just a self-loving bore and Quixote too loopy to love despite being too innocent to hate.
Driver and Pryce get a lot of screen time together and form the foundation of Gilliam’s plodding affair but there never allowed to spark the real magic that can be found in other Gilliam outings such as The Fisher King or Brazil, films where talented ensembles banded together to bring Gilliam’s wild imagination to life in colourful, energetic and unexpected ways.
Don Quixote is a film you wish you could love more, especially when considering where it’s come from and the verve it must of taken for Gilliam to stick to his guns but with $2 million in box office takings across the world and with middling to poor reviews from most film fans and critics, it appears as though the lacklustre experience we have been given, was not worth the effort all along.
Final Say –
There’s something special about this story, a reason why Gilliam has been so obsessed with bringing it to life but sadly for all, this version of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is an unfortunately lacking affair, devoid of any of the magic of Gilliam’s past triumphs in the cinematic landscape.
2 student films out of 5