A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Time Bandits

August 25, 2010

Time Bandits

For Sir Sean Connery’s birthday we decided to watch a movie with Sean Connery in it. But we’ve already watched Zardoz and The Rock, we don’t want to start yet on Highlander or Indiana Jones, and we don’t have any of the older James Bonds. But wait! Sean Connery had a small role in Time Bandits, that great Terry Gilliam fantasy film. (He is second billed behind John Clease.)

I have what might be a worshipful respect for this movie. I first saw it in theaters when it came out in 1981, and it left an indelible mark on my nine-year-old psyche. Which, of course, is exactly the reaction that Gilliam was going for I think. I was already a fan of his strange animations on Monty Python’s Flying Circus of course, but it was this movie that really introduced me to him and his wonderfully twisted worlds.

What’s so subversive, to my mind, about this movie is that it masquerades so well as a children’s movie. It’s an exciting tale of a young boy named Kevin and his adventures when a group of thieves break into his bedroom by way of his wardrobe and carry him off through a series of holes in time and space. They’ve got this map, you see, created by the Supreme Being that shows where all the holes in creation can be found. They’ve decided that rather than repair the holes in the universe (which is what the Supreme Being told them to do) they’re going to exploit them to steal treasures from all kinds of points in time.

The time bandits themselves are a colorful crew of little people. My favorite has always been Fidgit, played by Kenny Baker, who is sort of the kindest of the lot. He’s the one who most often sticks up for Kevin and shows some compassion. The self appointed leader is Randall, played by David Rappaport. Randall is the so-called brains of the operation, and tends to get his way by bossing the other guys around mercilessly. David ends up being pretty much the star of the movie, because it is his character who drives the plot, and because Randall has the most lines. There’s also Og (the dim one,) Vermin (who eats anything) and Strutter and Wally, who seem more sensible. (There’s a credit for Horseflesh, who actually made the map, but I don’t think he’s in the movie. Relegated to the cutting room floor I guess.)

As the group goes about their quest through space and time they traipse through a variety of historic moments and encounter a range of eccentric characters, which allows Gilliam to bring in a big ensemble of wonderful actors to play them. Ian Holm’s role as Napoleon defined him for me for years after I watched this movie. Seeing him in Brazil or Fellowship of the Ring I found myself constantly thinking “Oh! It’s the guy who played Napoleon.” The truth of the matter is that he’s a wonderful and eclectic character actor who makes every role he plays fresh, but this was the first thing I saw him in and it stuck with me. As a Python fan of course I was happy to see John Cleese (who plays Robin Hood as a fairly dim upper-class twit with a very silly hat) and Michael Palin (who plays a pair of guys who are besotted with Shelly Duvall in different time periods.) There’s David Warner (who just keeps cropping up in unexpected places in our collection) as Evil incarnate. And there’s our birthday boy himself, Sean Connery, as the dashing and charismatic hero who completely fails to save Kevin on more than one occasion.

What sets this movie apart from the vast majority of cinema aimed at youths is the slightly warped and unsettling nature of the way things play out. I’m not just talking about the way that the movie ends so unresolved, but about the general tone of the whole film. Kevin and the bandits are surrounded by violence and death much of the time. And throughout the film things very rarely go well for them.

It could have been just a cool adventure story for kids, had it not also been a Terry Gilliam film. Particularly when the band goes into the time of legends, with its ogres, giant, invisible barrier and fortress of ultimate evil, you can feel yourself falling into Gilliam’s fevered imagination. He fills the movie with vivid and unforgettable images, cool miniatures, and strangely human monsters. This is one of those movies that I just love watching. It’s unsettling and creepy, but entertaining and humorous as well. The perfect vehicle to twist a young nine-year-old’s brain for life.

August 25, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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